Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Alternative Mouse Control

There are many ways that an individual with disabilities can control their computer.  If the individual can control their mouse, they can typically control their entire computer.  This can be achieved through alternative access methods such as head, eye, or mouth control.

Using a Quad Mouse:

An example of an alternative mouse is a Quad Mouse or a mouse that the user can control with their mouth.  

Quad Mouse is a joystick that plugs into a computer that enables an individual with significant physical impairments control their computer.  The user moves the joystick with the mouse to move the mouse pointer.  For example, if the individual moves the mouse up with their mouse, the pointer on the screen moves up.  

How does the user click with this mouse?  

The user can click one of several ways.  The first way is to use dwell click software, see previous blog post describing this:  


The second way to click is through sip and puff clicking.  Through sipping and puffing, the user can emulate all mouse functions.  This includes left and right click, double click, and lock and drag.

An additional way that the user can click is through an ability switch that is mounted at a site of accurate movement.  This can be through a very small movement, such as a toe or finger, or a gross movement, such as a knee or elbow.  When accessing a switch access site, it is very important to choose an area that does not fatigue.  

How does a user type?

The user types using an on screen keyboard.  This can be the keyboard that comes within the accessibility options of the computer.  Additional on screen keyboards can be installed that have features to increase efficiency with typing such as word prediction.

It is always important to remember to trial various types of hardware and software before making the final decision on the most appropriate equipment.  After a fully evaluation, assisting with setup and training is just as important to facilitate independence for the user.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Voice Recognition Software

Voice Recognition Software or speech recognition software translates spoken words into text in regards to computer access or typing on a computer.  It is software that has been around for many years.  It can benefit a large population of individuals; ranging from people suffering with repetitive strain injuries to spinal cord injured individuals.  

Many voice recognition programs require the user to participate in a "training" task.  With this task, the user reads a passage so that the software can "learn" that person's speech patterns and pronunciations of words.  The program might also "read" text that is already saved on the user's computer to see how that individual writes grammatically.  

What are some of the benefits of voice recognition software?

Voice Recognition Software can enable an individual with limited or no upper extremity movement to access their computer independently.  It can be a quick way to get a lot of words on the page possibly decreasing fatigue and pain for certain individuals.  Since we speak faster than we type, once independent in the use, the user could "type" quickly, increasing efficiency and productivity in a work related environment as well as if used for leisure tasks.

What are some of the challenges of voice recognition software?

It can never be 100% accurate.  We have to remember that this is a computer and not a person.  If we say the wrong word, the wrong word will be typed; it cannot infer what was meant.  

Speaking to type is a completely different way of typing and can take some getting used to for an individual that is used to access their computer with their hands.  There can be a higher cognitive load to prepare what you want to say versus just figuring it out as you type.  Extended talking can be very fatiguing.  Often, this type of software would not be best for individuals that fatigue easily or energy conservation is important for their function.

Background noise can affect the accuracy as can if the user has a cold and does not sound like their usual self.  It is best to use this software in a quiet environment.  

It requires quite a bit of memory and processing speed.  If you are thinking of investing in this type of software, be sure to check the specifications required to run this software effectively.  

Finally, there are a large amount of commands that this software requires in order for the user to be completely hands-free.  For an individual with a spinal cord injury, they would need to learn the commands for independence with use.  If the user can access the keyboard, sometimes they choose to use the software to get the words on the page but use the keyboard and the mouse to fix any errors.  The individual has to see what works best for them.

Overall, the use of voice recognition software can be beneficial for the appropriate individual.  As with any assistive technology, there are pros and cons to its use.  It is important to remember that there are many software options available to facilitate independence in an individual.  If voice recognition software is not an appropriate option, there are many other items on the market to try.