Monday, March 19, 2012

Mouse...head mouse that is...

The computer mouse is a very interesting device that was designed for accessing a computer.  A simple definition of the mouse can be found on wikipedia:

mouse is a pointing device that functions by detecting two-dimensional motion relative to its supporting surface. Physically, a mouse consists of an object held under one of the user's hands, with one or more buttons. It sometimes features other elements, such as "wheels", which allow the user to perform various system-dependent operations, or extra buttons or features that can add more control or dimensional input. The mouse's motion typically translates into the motion of a pointer on a display, which allows for fine control of a graphical user interface.  

A mouse comes standard with a desktop computer; laptops have the trackpad.  In working with individuals with varying disabilities, the mouse one of the biggest issues to independent computer use.  In the earlier posts, there is information on how control panel changes can assist with mouse use.  In addition that that, alternative hardware and software can be utilized for mouse skills as well.

If the user is experiencing poor gross or fine motor skills in either arm or lack of movement, they can still use a mouse.  One product that can be used if the person has no arm movement (as with a person with a spinal cord injury) is a head mouse.

The head mouse:

The head mouse is an input device that can be used by an individual with little or no arm movement.  The camera sits on top of your computer and follows a small shiny sticker that is placed on the forehead or a baseball cap of the user, moving the pointer.  

Essentially, the user moves his head, the pointer follows.  

How does the person click?

There two most common ways for clicking is either by switch use or dwell click software.  Many of the head mice on the market have ports for a switch to be plugged in.  The switch can be positioned or mounted to the area that is strongest.  This could be a finger, foot, elbow, etc.  The switches vary in size and amount of pressure that is required.

Another way to click is through dwell click software.  Dwell click software eliminated the need for a physical click.  This would be important for an individual that is unable to press the button due to pain, arthritis, stroke, spinal cord injury, just to name a few.

The user would move the pointer over the area they want clicked.  A pre-set time (which can be adjusted for the person) will be established, which can vary from .25 seconds to longer.  After the pointer is held there for the established time, the software will click for the user.  Many features can be adjusted with such software.  This can include the sensitivity or feedback for the dwell feature.    Not only can this software be used with a head mouse for clicking but with a conventional mouse if the user can move it but is unable to perform clicking.

Always keep in mind, there is never one way to use a mouse or access a computer.  The most important thing is to trial as many options as possible to see what is the best person for the user.

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