Monday, February 27, 2012

Telephones telephones telephones

Telephones are a necessity to our daily life but a piece of technology that is not accessible for all users.  Not only is the telephone a requirement for for keeping in touch with friends and family but it is important for home safety.  If you cannot access your telephone, how can you call for help.  Here are some of the options, although there are more available on the market dependent on your needs.

Call your telephone company.  The company that is providing your service might have options for phones without any or a limited additional cost.  These services might include accessibility for the death or hard of hearing population, or for individuals with minimal physical impairments.  

Scanning Telephone:  The use of a phone that has a scanning feature can be very beneficial for a user with limited mobility.  The telephone featured below has a remote control that allows for any ability switch to be plugged into it.  There are 20 preset numbers that can be pre-programming.  When the user presses the switch, the scanning through the 20 preset numbers begin.  The speed of the scan can be adjusted for the user.  Once the scan gets to the desired number, the user presses the switch again and it dials out.  To answer or hang up, the user only needs to hit the switch.  Not only can this be accessed by a physical switch but by an air switch as well.  If the user cannot use their hands, the physical switch can be mounted by their head or the air switch might be appropriate.  
Voice Amplification:  If an individual has issues with the volume of their voice, using a telephone can be very challenging.  The people that they are speaking with might be unable to hear or understand them, asking them to constantly repeating themselves, requiring more energy for telephone use.  A nice solution might be using a telephone that amplifies the speaker.  There are many options that amplify the incoming person for a hand of hearing individual but limited for amplifying the outgoing for low volume.  There are some "inline" amplification options that connect between the phone and the wall.  There are also telephones that amplify through the handset, pictured below.

Computer Based:  A computer could be used for telephone needs.  There are certain websites that can be accessed for free that connect to an operator.  You enter the number to dial, the operator dials it, and then speaks for you.  The user would type what they want said, the operator speaks it and then types back the response.  This is great for someone who is deaf or hard of hearing, or for an individual with limited or no upper extremity use that is accessing their computer through adapted means.  

Picture Based Dialing:  For individuals with cognitive issues or have issues with remembering or recognizing numbers, picture based dialing can be helpful.  These types of phones allow the user to program preset numbers with the pictures of who they are dialing onto.  The individual only has to press the picture to dial the desired individual.  The amplification phone above has this feature has does many other phones.

Keep in mind that these telephones are options but not the only options for making telephone calls.  Cell phone adaptations are to be addressed in an upcoming blog post.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Light Controls

There are everyday tasks that we all perform without thinking about it that is very difficult for many individuals.  An example would be turning a lamp on and off.  

The fine motor skill needed to turn the switch could be severely impaired for an individual with Parkinson's disease or severe arthritis.  There a many reasons why it could be unsafe for an individual to attempt to get up and walk across the room just to turn a light on and off.  Getting up to turn on or off a light is not exercise but a necessity; if balance is an issue, it should not be attempted.  Think about the person that needs to use the bathroom in the middle of the night but cannot access their lamp.  This individual might decide to walk to the bathroom in the dark, putting themselves in an unsafe situation, possibly falling and creating a debilitating injury.  Also imagine the individual that sits in the dark because there is no one available to turn their light on for them.  There can be many simple solutions for this problem.

Touch Lamps:

Purchasing a touch lamp can be a great solution for those individuals that can walk to their lamps.  For the person that does not want to change out their lamps, touch lamp modules can be purchased at a fairly low cost.  These modules would eliminate the need to turn the switch inside the lamp.  The user would have to touch any metal part of the lamp to turn it on and off.

X10 devices:

X10 devices have been around since the 1970's and enable the user to turn any device on and off through a simple remote.  This is performed through a radio frequency transceiver and appropriate module boxes.  

The lamps (or other basic on off devices) are plugged into a module box.  A transceiver is plugged into a different outlet in the same room.  The remote, module box, and transceiver are all placed on the same radio frequency code; each lamp or device has their own number for the remote use.  When the individual presses the corresponding number on the remote, it will turn the lamp (or fan, alarm, etc) on or off.  This allows the user to turn on their lights without having to get up.  This can enable independence for a wheelchair user or for an individual with balance problems that could not safely walk to the lamp.  There are many options for remotes, some controlling one device, others controlling up to 16.  For individuals with more significant disabilities, many power wheelchairs or environmental control units have X10 capability.

The Clapper:

I couldn't talk about light controls without talking about the Clapper.  Often, when I discuss light controls with individuals they reference the clapper (thanks to all the ads in the 1980's).  The Clapper is a sound switch that controls lamps.  When the user creates the clapping sound, it turns the light on or off.  This is another perfect example of an adaptABLE world.  Yes, these are still for sale, I found them easily on the internet.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Just When You Thought There Wasn't Much More to Talk About For Mouse Properties

Who knew there could be so many available changes in the control panel for the mouse pointer and properties.  The picture below shows another option for changing mouse pointer features once in the control panel under "mouse properties".  

Honestly, there are really only two features that I use often here but it is important to highlight all of them.


In my opinion, one of the most important is the "motion", the ability to select the pointer speed.  If the speed of the pointer is not appropriate for the user it can greatly affect their accuracy with "hitting" icons on the desk or internet links.  If it is too slow, the user will have to perform multiple swipes or movements of the mouse to get the pointer over there.  If it is too fast, they will over shoot their targets, almost "flying" all over the screen, resulting in frustration and decreased efficiency with use.  

Also, keep in mind, if you change the mouse hardware, you might need to change the mouse speed.  This would not only include changing mice types for the hand but is especially important if you are working with a head mouse.

Snap To:  

If you turn on the snap to feature the pointer will automatically "snap" to the default button such as "apply" or "ok" when you open a dialog box.  


Display pointer trails creates a trail of pointers as the mouse moves.  I have not found this to be helpful with the clients I have worked with in the past but I am sure that there are individuals that would find this useful for their needs.

Hide the pointer when typing does exactly what it says, hides the pointer when typing.  This can be useful if the individual could become distracted by the pointer.

Show location of the pointer when I hit the CTRL key I have found very helpful.  It is very easy to "loose" the mouse pointer.  Instead of having to move your mouse until the pointer comes out of hiding hit the CTRL key.  This creates almost a "radar" circle around the pointer, making it easier to find the pointer, hopefully decreasing any related frustration.

Remember that a combination of multiple control panel changes (with possible hardware changes) could make computer access easier for all individuals, creating an adaptABLE world!

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Mini Keyboards

I often get asked about mini keyboards and one handed keyboards.  These keyboards are helpful for one handed users or individuals with good fine motor but impaired gross motor skills.

Often, I do not recommend one handed keyboards.  Although there are many options for one handed keyboards, I have yet to meet an individual that is very successful with this kind of keyboard.  The reason I find them difficult for training and use is that for an individual that was a typist prior to their injury or disability this is a new way to learn to type.  This is a "chording" form of typing, holding down multiple keys to get the letters that would have been on the other half of a conventional keyboard.

As for mini keyboards,they can be very helpful for your one handed user.  They have the standard QWERTY layout but since the keyboard is mini is decreases the amount of "travel" that the user requires for typing.  There are many types of mini keyboards.  Some are marketed to the disabled community, others are just "mini" keyboards, marketed to a more mainstream population.  It is important to trial various types and sizes to find the perfect fit.  

Typically, if a keyboard is for a disabled individual, it will be more costly.  The keyboard below is $585.00, marketed towards individuals with disabilities.

There are also keyboards that are mini but marketed towards gamers.  This keyboard below I love because it can be used with thumbs only (similar to a blackberry keyboard) and has a mouse mover as well.  I have used this keyboard with individuals with varying disabilities.  It has facilitated independence in all of the appropriate folks I have worked with.  Since this is not for disabled individuals, it can be found online for $119.00

Even "childsize" keyboards can work as a mini keyboard.  This one below can be found for $62.00 plus shipping online.   

It is always important to remember that not all keyboards fit everyone.  Whenever evaluating keyboards for an adaptABLE world, all options must be tried for success.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

What Can You Change About Your Mouse Pointer?

Continuing the discussion on the mouse, there are many options that can be changed with the pointer itself.  I find the pointer in its standard settings small, white, and difficult to find at times.  This can easily be changed in both the Macintosh and Windows operating systems.  

On the Mac, by going into the Universal Access in the System Preferences, click on mouse, there is a slider that you can move to make the pointer much larger.

With Windows, go into the control panel then choose mouse.  It is here that you 
can make the pointer larger, change the color, or even the shape of the pointer.  If you look through the drop down menu in the "scheme" for pointers, there are many options in regards to these changes.

Changing small features with the mouse pointer, it can make it easier for the user to find and use.  This could increase the level of independence of the user, decrease frustration, and increase efficiency.  

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Mouse Function 2.0


Thinking about mouse use in Windows, there are many options that can be modified for increased function.  Although there are changes that can be made in Macintosh as well, due to the fact that the mouse design is different, there are not as many modifications (or need for modifications).

The mouse properties can be access in the control panel. The three areas that are to be discussed can usually be difficult for individuals primarily with fine motor coordination issues. 

Button Configuration:

When this is checked off, the primary and secondary buttons have "swapped".  This means that the left click now acts as the right click and vice versa.  This can be very helpful for individuals with fine motor coordination, maybe there is a deformity in their fingers that create issues with access.  This simple "swap" can affect an individuals level of independence with mouse skills.

Double Click Speed:

Changing the double click speed can be very helpful.  If an individual has issues with coordinating the double click, slowing it down can make a huge difference. Often, with folks that cannot perform double click adequately, they use their right click to bring up the menu, then click open.  By slowing down the double click speed, it eliminates the need for these multiple steps.


This feature is rarely used yet can really be very beneficial.  Often, individuals with fine motor coordination issues demonstrate difficulty with holding down the left click and moving the mouse at the same time for highlight, copy, cut, etc.  If the ClickLock is turned on, the user just has to briefly hold down the mouse button (left click), then it "locks".  The user then only has to move the mouse to highlight.  To "unlock" it, the user hits left click again.  The amount of time that the left click has to be held down to lock it can also be modified for the individual.  This feature is also enabled for Macintosh.

The next blog post will include mouse pointer size and speed.