2004 Conference Proceedings

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Roger Bates
Inclusive Technology
Gatehead Business Park
Oldham, Lancashire, OL3 5BX United Kingdom
Phone: 01457819790
Fax: 01457819799
Email: roger@inclusive.co.uk

The use of a standard computer mouse and the navigation of the graphic rich computer environment present is hard for many people with physical, learning and perceptual difficulties. Many alternatives now exist and this session will consider a wide selection of mouse alternatives, examining the benefits and drawbacks of each one. Access to the computer environment can pose a cognitive and perceptual challenge as well as a physical one for users. A range of strategies including a selection of software designed to provide opportunities for practicing and developing "mouse skills" will be demonstrated.

The interface to a computer can place considerable demands on a users' physical, perceptual, visual and cognitive abilities. The majority of standard software, with its graphical user interface, has been designed to rely heavily on the user's ability to see the screen and to be able to control the mouse pointer successfully. Alternatives and enhancements to the standard mouse and on-screen pointer have been developed over a number of years to facilitate access to regular computer software. This session will examine a range of mouse alternatives and will additionally focus on the need to provide suitable opportunities for users to practice the skills needed to use the devices. A range of software will be show that has been designed to breakdown the skills needed into easily managed sections.

Choosing the right device

When introducing a new device it is important to ensure that the user is able to concentrate on the task of controlling the device and not be confused with a cognitively challenging task at the same time. We would never dream of taking a learner driver to the busiest city centre street to try a car for the very first time! The principle of "one step at a time" is a good one to adopt, it is advisable to start with a task that is simple and obvious, it can soon be made more challenging.

The InclusiveTLC programs "TouchIT", "Mouse Skills" and "Touch Balloons" have been designed to provide a range of carefully graduated activities for the beginner to mouse control. They can be used alongside a standard mouse, the computers built-in accessibility options and with alternative hardware such as a touch monitor, roller-balls or joystick controls and remote head-pointing systems.

The programs can be set up to provide very simple introductory tasks requiring a minimum of cognitive and perceptual ability. When basic skills have been established the programs can then be tailored to provide an increasing challenge as well as being used to help determine the users preferred settings for pointer size, contrast etc. Various controls over levels are available including

Options also allow for the practice of "button" skills

Rollers, joysticks and other devices

The Penny&Giles range of roller-balls and joysticks has been developed to meet various needs. The Plus models provides a full range of features, the less expensive Roller II will cater for those with less severe needs. The IntelliKeys keyboard can also control the mouse pointer. The session will include a demonstration and discussion of using these device and other devices as mouse alternatives.

Successful "mouse" use

By using suitable strategies in the initial stages of "mouse use" the user can be given the opportunity to practice and develop the necessary skills. This session will have examined a wide selection of mouse alternatives and training software.

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