Computer Access for Motor-Impaired Users

Computer Access for Motor-Impaired Users

Shari Trewin (IBM T.J. Watson Research Center, USA) and Simeon Keates (IBM T.J. Watson Research Center, USA)
Copyright: © 2006 |Pages: 8
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-59140-562-7.ch015
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Abstract

Computers can be a source of tremendous benefit for those with motor impairments. Enabling computer access empowers individuals, offering improved quality of life. This is achieved through greater freedom to participate in computer-based activities for education and leisure, as well as increased job potential and satisfaction. Physical impairments can impose barriers to access to information technologies. The most prevalent conditions include rheumatic diseases, stroke, Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, cerebral palsy, traumatic brain injury, and spinal injuries or disorders. Cumulative trauma disorders represent a further significant category of injury that may be specifically related to computer use. See Kroemer (2001) for an extensive bibliography of literature in this area. Symptoms relevant to computer operation include joint stiffness, paralysis in one or more limbs, numbness, weakness, bradykinesia (slowness of movement), rigidity, impaired balance and coordination, tremor, pain, and fatigue. These symptoms can be stable or highly variable, both within and between individuals. In a study commissioned by Microsoft, Forrester Research, Inc. (2003) found that one in four working-age adults has some dexterity difficulty or impairment. Jacko and Vitense (2001) and Sears and Young (2003) provide detailed analyses of impairments and their effects on computer access. There are literally thousands of alternative devices and software programs designed to help people with disabilities to access and use computers (Alliance for Technology Access, 2000; Glennen & DeCoste, 1997; Lazzaro, 1995). This article describes access mechanisms typically used by individuals with motor impairments, discusses some of the trade-offs involved in choosing an input mechanism, and includes emerging approaches that may lead to additional alternatives in the future.

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