For many people with Parkinson’s Disease, assistive technology (AT) for computer access is high on the list of needed accommodations. Voice recognition software such as Dragon Natural Speaking is a very popular recommendation and works for many people, but it may be too complex for some. In addition, having a secondary method of computer access besides voice recognition is beneficial, as sometimes Dragon just stops listening!
The following are a few popular products and free computer built-ins that IPAT has recommended to help people with Parkinson’s access a computer with more success. If you have questions about these devices, other AT for Parkinson’s, or equipment rentals or demos, contact us at 1-800-895-4728.
If you have tremors or weakness in your hands/arms, keyguards are “key” to accessing the keyboard accurately. These handy devices are pieces of metal or plastic with holes cut out for each key. They allow one to rest their hands right on top of the keyboard and access keys by placing their fingers through each hole. This reduces typing mistakes and provides a great place to rest when fatigue sets in. There are several places to obtain custom keyguards for keyboards and keyboard/keyguard combinations. Here are a few:
The Rollermouse is a unique computer mouse that, in my opinion, you have to try, or at least watch a video of, in order to fully understand how it works. All three versions of the Rollermouse look nothing like any standard mouse, but more like a fancy wrist rest with buttons. This pointing device is stationed at the bottom of your keyboard and accessed with anything from one finger to two full hands. The main mode of control comes from moving a rollerbar side-to-side, up/down, and diagonally, giving you the same smooth, full screen access as any standard mouse or trackball. The rollerbar can also be pushed for a left click, which can be fine-tuned to require more or less force or completely turned off with the latest version, Rollermouse Red.
For people with Parkinson’s, this mouse can improve stability and decrease unnecessary movements because all required movement for the keyboard/mouse is central to the body versus 6-12 inches away. Speed/accuracy can also be increased because of one or more of these features: rollerbar clicking, use of two hands for mousing, being able to switch control between fingers and hands when fatigue sets in, and mousing with one hand and clicking the left-click button with the other.
I have personally used this mouse for approximately 10 years to prevent a repetitive stress injury. My favorite features are rollerbar left-clicking and being able to keep my fingers on the keys while mousing with my thumbs; a skill I inadvertently developed over the years.
ErgoRest Arm Supports
The ErgoRest Arm supports, as Scott discussed in his blog last week, are a great device for people who have pain in their arms, neck, and shoulders. For some people with Parkinson’s, these arm rests are also a great way to provide stabilization, which can increase accuracy with the keyboard and mousing.
Freebies-Built-in Computer Accessibility Features
There are free accessibility features built into both Mac and Windows operating systems that can help a person with Parkinson’s access the computer with more speed and accuracy. The following are features for Windows:
- Filter Keys-when this feature is on, brief or repeated keystrokes are ignored.
- Sticky Keys-eliminates the need to hold down more than one key to execute a function such as “CTRL-ALT-DELETE”. When it is activated, you only have to push and release each key and the computer remembers.
- Mouse Speed-turning the mouse speed down in conjunction with a standard or alternative mouse can improve accuracy, especially when learning a new pointing device.
- Mouse Keys when this is turned on, you can use the keys of the number pad to move the mouse. This in combination with a keyguard can make all the difference for some people.
- Keyboard Shortcuts allow for 2-3 keyboard combinations to execute a function which can be much faster than executing them using a mouse. For example, CTRL-S is “save”.