Computers use with tremors: What solutions are available to computer users who have tremors impacting their use of a keyboard or mouse?

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What solutions are available to computer users who have tremors impacting their use of a keyboard or mouse?

Question

Parkinson's disease related tremors are making it difficult to use a keyboard and mouse to draw or communicate with others

Our answer

Computers and technology have so many benefits including facilitating communication and artistic expression. However, the conventional mouse and keyboard can be a barrier for computer users with tremors. Fortunately there are some innovative solutions to help improve digital accessibility.

One possible option is to dampen the tremor by using basic wrist weights. For example, the Valeo 2 lb. Wrist Weights (available from amazon.ca) are made of soft neoprene and weigh one pound each. This product costs about $14 (U.S.).

There is also mouse smoothing as a software solution that help computer users with tremors to use a mouse. This option acts to filter out the shaking motions, thus allowing for smoother control of the cursor. SteadyMouse is a computer program for Windows intent on addressing mouse-related challenges associated with tremors. The features include reducing the impacts of shaking motion and blocking out unintentional mouse clicks. There are three versions: SteadyMouse 1 which is free, SteadyMouse 2 which is $43 (U.S.), and SteadyMouse X which is $127 (U.S.).

There are also several promising hardware solutions that are intended to improve mouse control for users who experience tremors. For users who intend to keep their existing mouse the AMAneo USB (from Inclusive TLC) is an assistive Anti-Tremor Mouse Adaptor. It connects between the mouse and the device to facilitate the smooth movement of the cursor. It has adjustable controls and does not require any software installation. The Windows version is available for $265 (U.S.) and an iOS version is available for $350 (U.S.). We have listed a few hardware options below that could replace an existing mouse or touchpad:

  • Bigtrack Switch Adapted Trackball by Ablenet (available from Bridges Canada) is a track ball mouse with distinct left and right click buttons. Trackballs do not require the same amount of accurate finger and wrist movements as a mouse does. This product costs about $110 (Cdn).
  • Hippus HandShoe Mouse (available from amazon.ca) is a mouse with a unique ergonomic shape that does not require as much gripping for pinching as a conventional mouse. Users with Parkinson’s, arthritis and other movement disorders have identified this mouse as a useful product. It costs about $150 (Cdn).

For computer users who make brief or repeated keystrokes there may be a solution within the settings. Newer versions of Windows offer the Filter Keys function within the keyboard settings which tells the computer to ignore accidental keystrokes.

Keyguards have also been helpful in improving typing accuracy for some computer users with tremors. Keyguards are placed over the keyboard and put space between each key, thus reducing the chance of pressing one of the adjacent keys while typing.

  • Keys-U-See Keyboard and Keyguard (from Special Needs Computers) is a highly visible keyboard with transparent keyguard. These two products cost about $180 (Cdn).
  • BigKeys LX Rigid Keyguard (from Bridges Canada) is a transparent keyguard for the BigKeys LX Keyboard. The keyboard features 2.5 cm square keys and works with PC, Mac, or Chromebook computers. The keyguard costs about $120 (Cdn) and the keyboard costs about $200 (Cdn).
  • iPad Keyboard Keyguard (from Keyguard AT) has a variety of customization options to support typing on an iPad.
  • If the tablet is intended for running a specific communication app, such as TouchChat, there may be custom keyguards available such as these from LoganTech.

There are so many more ways to control a computer beyond a touchpad, mouse or a trackball -including new options for using your head, eyes, voice, and more. You can read more in this article from Better Living Technology where they address the wide range of computer mouse alternatives.

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