1998 Conference Proceedings

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A "TRICKS AND TREATS" TOOL BOX FOR COMPUTER ACCESS

Jamie Klund, MS, OTR
Sun Prairie Public Schools
509 Commercial Avenue
Sun Prairie, WI 53590
(608) 837-2541 (Ext. 2157)
email: mjklund@facstaff.wisc.edu 

Mark Novak, BSEE, PE Trace R&D Center
1500 Highland Avenue
Madison, WI 53705-2280
(608) 262-6966
email: menovak@facstaff.wisc.edu

The idea for the software toolkits began because of a student with mild cerebral palsy who was non-verbal. She demonstrated the ability to use the computer for written work and communication, but she had access problems due to her cerebral palsy. She could use the standard keyboard but was essentially a one finger typist. She was able to use a mouse or trackball to move the cursor and she could click but she could not click-and-drag using the mouse. Over time, several software solutions or "tools" were used to make the computer more accessible for this student. These tools included software to enlarge the cursor, hold windows open, assist with click-and-drag, hold modifier keys down, and speak text. Eventually, a collection of several different software tools for different computers was compiled. In an effort to house them all in one location while also making the collection public to assist others who work to make computers accessible, the entire software toolkit collection was posted to the following web site:

http://trace.wisc.edu/world/computer_access/

Typing the above address into your web browser (e.g., Netscape Navigator) will take you directly to the Trace R&D Center "Designing a More Usable World, Computers & Software" web page. From there, the Software

Toolkits are listed as item #3 and are organized for the various operating systems (e.g., Apple Macintosh, DOS, Windows, Windows 95, and the UNIX/X Window System).

Most of the software in the toolkits is either freeware or shareware. Freeware is copyrighted software that you can use free of charge. The owner may dictate the terms under which the software can be distributed. However, most freeware authors encourage the wide distribution of their software.

Shareware is copyrighted user-supported software. That is, you can try the software for a specified period after which you must either pay the registration fee or stop using the software. The owner may dictate the terms under which the software can be distributed. Sometimes, registering shareware software may allow you to turn on disabled features or turn off annoying "reminder" type features. Also, registering the software often allows you to get the latest update or version of the software. Most of the shareware prices are very reasonable (e.g., $5.00 $40.00).

The software toolkits currently contain more than one hundred and fifty pieces of software. The software is categorized by "function". Some of the main functions are Visual Cursor Enhancers, Mouse Enhancers, Magnification, On-Screen Keyboards, Abbreviation/Expansion, Word Completion/Prediction, Keyboard Audio Feedback, Voice Output

Applications, Keyboard Modifications, Keyboard Shortcuts, Application/Window Managers, and Voice Input Applications.

The toolkits have software to help the physically disabled by assisting in using the mouse through holding open menus, making selections with a dwell rather than a click, and using keyboard commands rather than mouse movements. The physically disabled can also use tools to enhance using the keyboard with abbreviation/expansion as well as using on-screen keyboards and voice recognition. Those with visual disabilities will find tools to provide screen magnification, to add sound and voice output and to change the size and appearance of the cursor. Those persons with learning and cognitive disabilities can use tools that give keyboard feedback with sounds, talking keys that say each letter that is typed. They can also use text reading programs and abbreviation expansion.

When you find a piece of software on the web page that looks interesting, there should also be a brief description of the software explaining whether it is freeware or shareware. Associated with most of software programs in the toolkits are two "hyperlink" addresses. These addresses are usually underlined or made to appear as "bold font" by your web browser. By selecting the longer address, your web browser should take you to the source of the software, or the latest site at which we were able to locate the software. Or by selecting the shorter hyperlink address, you can download the software to your computer provided your browser is properly configured. The files on the web pages are stored in a compressed format to both save space and download-time. Therefore, once you have received the files, you may have to (again, depends upon your browser) either uncompress or unstuff the files. Once the files are uncompressed or unstuffed, most of them include a "readme" file which explains how to install or operate that particular program.

Following are samples from different sections of both the Macintosh and Windows 95 toolkit web pages, showing the kind of on-line description associated with each program including the hyperlink addresses.

Samples from the Macintosh Toolkit Web Page:

Visual Cursor Enhancers

* caretPatch

A system extension that draws the caret (I-Beam cursor) with a line two pixels thick instead of only one pixel. Freeware. See http://www.ecnet.net/users/gnorris/place.shtml caretpatch.sit.hqx (6k)

* Color Arrow

When placed into your System Folder and re-booted, it will display a color arrow cursor on Macs that support color. Shareware. See http://www2.apple.com/disability/shareware.html color_arrow.sit.hqx (7k)

* Fat Cursors 1.1

Fat Cursors is a System 7-compatible control panel that automatically enlarges the cursor (arrow and I-beam) to make it more visible. The program is especially useful for people with visual impairments and PowerBook users. See http://www2.apple.com/disability/shareware.html fat_cursors.sit.hqx (10k)

Mouse Enhancers

* AutoMenus Pro 3.1.2

This program helps ease menu selections with several options. Menus will stay dropped down after just one click and users can also set options to have items in menus automatically activated after they are highlighted for a specific length of time. There is also a setting that extends the bottom of menus, so that the last items in the list are not accidentally activated. Shareware ($15). See http://www.sped.ukans.edu/~dlance/cheap.html automenus.hqx (102k)

* Mouse Keys for Powerbook 1.0.1

There is also a Mouse Keys for the PowerBook, because the PowerBook does not have a built-in numeric keypad. The file "Mouse Keys for the PowerBook" is used to emulate the numeric keyboard on the standard PowerBook keyboard. (Note: This new version of the popular Easy Access control panel allows Sticky Keys to remain active after waking up if it was active when the PowerBook or Portable went to sleep. Also, Easy

Access now remembers whether sticky keys, mouse keys, and slow keys were on or off between restarts.) Freeware. See http://www2.apple.com/disability/disability_home.html mousekeys.sit.hqx (5k)

* Snap-To 2.0.1

Snap-To is a control panel that snaps the cursor to the default button whenever a dialog comes up on your screen. It helps increase your speed when using a Macintosh, especially if you use dialogs often and/or have a large screen. Shareware ($5). See http://www2.apple.com/disability/shareware.html

snap_to.sit.hqx (41k)

Magnification

* MFZoom 2.1

MFZoom is a system extension that increases the menu and window title font size to 14pt. This is useful for big screen monitor users and those who have to squint to see the normal menu font. Freeware. See http://www.ecnet.net/users/gnorris/place.shtml mfzoom_21.hqx (7k)

Samples from the Windows 95 Toolkit Web Page:

Visual Cursor Enhancers

* Meta-Mouse 2.01

Meta-Mouse 2.01 is a program for Windows 95 whose purpose is to improve the visibility of the mouse cursor. This is accomplished in several ways: (1) The cursor can be made to blink on and off, (2) The cursor can be made much larger, displaying either a large black arrow with a white border, a large white arrow with a black border, a large inverse-color arrow, or numerous others, (3) The cursor can be made to change its shape dynamically (see the "Ultra-High Visibility" option), and (4) The normally "white" part of the cursor can be changed to one of several other colors, including dynamic color cycling. Shareware ($21 + S/H). See http://www.cylexinc.com/mmou.htm for a 30-day free trialversion (fully functional).

* Mouse Wrapper 95 1.0

This simple program will wrap the mouse cursor around the screen getting the cursor where you want it faster and easier. Shareware ($5). See http://www.thenerve2.com/edyshack/mw95.zip (1.7MB)

Mouse Enhancers

* MouseKeys Plus 0.5

MouseKeys Plus is intended to allow laptop computer users to remap the MouseKeys directional and control keys from the Numeric Keypad to the Cursor Keypad, thus making it easier to use MouseKeys with laptop computers. Please read the help file named mkplus.txt. Freeware.

mkplus.zip (14k)

Magnification

* Big-W

New software is available now, at low cost, to enable people with poor eyesight to comfortably use personal computers running Microsoft Windows. Compatible with Windows, versions 3.1 and 3.11 and with Windows 95, this utility increases the screen images by any amount the user selects, from 1X to 10X. Big-W is not limited to English language users; it functions equally well in all language editions of Microsoft Windows. Big-W is suitable for PC users throughout the world. Shareware ($39.95 + S/H). See http://www.senior.com/sites/nire/bwe_demo.exe (82k)

End of Samples...

This resource will only be as good as everyone makes it. If you regularly use a software package that is freeware or shareware, please let us know about it so that we may add it to the software toolkit collection. The easiest way to do this is to contact the Trace R&D Center directly using "info@trace.wisc.edu" email address. Also, please remember to register your shareware. Supporting the authors helps everyone.

The above information was included as part of the 'A "Tricks and Treats" Tool Box for Computer Access' presentation at the 1998 California State University Northridge (CSUN) Conference.


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