There are many reasons someone would need to access the computer without their hands, such as a Multiple Sclerosis (MS), Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), quadriplegia, Muscular Dystrophy, etc.. Although we have written about several of these wonderful, hands-free inventions below over the last couple years, we thought it would be nice to have a collective listing to give you a starting point on your quest. They are all available for demonstration and loan at IPAT. If you are interested, please contact us: 800-895-4728 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Speech Recognition software such as Dragon Naturally Speaking is sometimes the first method that everyone thinks of when it comes to going hands-free. Although this method is quite good now with advances in technology, one may still need to have an additional or different way of access, such as those below because of voice fatigue, intelligibility, environmental noise, etc. Below are two articles that we have written regarding speech recognition.
Head Movement-Direct Access
If one can still move their head, “Head-Mousing” may be a great computer access method. Devices of this type allow the head to be used in conjunction with special software and/or hardware to move the mouse cursor. The Headmouse Extreme and TrackerPro are two of these devices that take input from a reflective dot placed on the user’s head and translate it into mouse movements. For mouse clicks, one can use external switches or “dwelling” by placing the cursor on the desired area and waiting for the click to occur. Onscreen keyboards can be used for text input.
Mouth, Chin, Lip-Direct Access
There are several devices on the market to help one access the computer via their lips, tongue and/or chin. Each provides a very accurate way to move the mouse around on the screen with a joystick and a built-in clicking system with either a sip/puff switch or some other switch for mouse clicks . All of these devices are capable of being mounted on a desk or table, so the user can just go right up to the table in his/her wheelchair and begin using it. Below are articles on two of these devices, the Jouse 2 and TetraMouse, that describe in more detail how they work.
Eyegaze computer control has come a long way over the past decade and is continually improving. Eyegaze systems use specialized hardware and software to read the user’s eye movements and subsequently move the cursor, type or make selections on the screen. We have the PCEyeGo from Tobii/Dynavox here in our center, and it has worked for some of our clients.
Did you know that you could control an entire computer with multiple clicks of the same switch? Although probably the most restrictive method for most people, switch access allows someone to control an entire computer as long as they have at least one body part that can be moved voluntarily. With computer switch interfaces such as the Switch Click USB and Swifty and Beam, one can control their computer using one or more switches placed at their foot, head, knee, finger, elbow, chin, etc. These switches are then used in conjunction with scanning on-screen keyboards (i.e. Wivik) and mouse software (i.e. ScanBuddy) to enable all computer functions.