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Computer Access Resources

Most people with brain and spinal cord injuries want to be able to use their computers again. They find they can resume the online activities they enjoyed before – emailing friends or using the internet – but also can benefit from access to information and tools to help them live and work with their disabilities. Craig Hospital’s Tech Lab can help make these vital connections through speech recognition, mouse options, microphone options, accessibility features and on-screen keyboards.

Speech Recognition

Using speech recognition software, patients use their voices to compose documents, play computer games or use a variety of apps.

Speech recognition software enables people to use their voice to control their computer. Craig Hospital patients and therapists have worked extensively with these products:

  • Windows 7, Windows 8 and Windows 10 Speech Recognition Software: Speech recognition capability is built into the operating system.You can use your computer to recognize your voice and spoken commands. Use Speech Recognition to run programs and interact with Windows or dictate into word processing programs, fill out online forms or edit text. View common commands in Windows’ speech recognition.
  • Dragon Naturally Speaking Speech Recognition Software for Windows: Many Craig Hospital patients have the opportunity to learn and use speech recognition software. This software lets you speak naturally to create or edit documents, use email, search your computer, find maps, news, images and more. Dragon creates individual voice files and, over time, “learns” how you talk and write. So, as the software becomes more acclimated to your individual style, the results are more accurate. You can dictate anything - prices, dates, URLs, punctuation, acronyms - or personalize the vocabulary with custom words and phrases. The software comes with a wired headset. Two versions are available:

The wireless package comes with the Dragon Wireless Bluetooth headset.

  • Dragon Professional Individual for Mac v6: Dragon's software for Mac computers is slightly different from its PC version. It requires more mouse use and the commands require more words. You are also limited in your web browsing capabilities when using voice commands. Note: This software is no longer supported. You cannot upgrade the operating system beyond the High Sierra version.

The wireless package for Dragon Dictate uses the Bluetooth headset.

  • Speech Recognition Enhancements
    • SpeechStart+ : Take Dragon to a new level of hands-free integration with Windows 10, Windows 8 and Windows 7. Performs mouse clicks via voice commands. Provides enhanced voice features that support Dragon Naturally Speaking and Windows Speech Control. For example, you can restart Dragon and wake up its microphone with your voice. Comes with 15-day free trial.
    • VoiceComputer for Dragon NaturallySpeaking: This hands-free mouse alternative lets you control your computer and its applications by simply saying numbers. Takes the stress out of repetitive computing by allowing you to move around. Provides custom overlays to enhance any type of software. Able to turn on the Dragon microphone when turned off and can restart Dragon and voice computer software with voice commands.

Mouse Options

Some Craig Hospital patients have difficulty using a traditional mouse with their computer. Fortunately, there are a growing number of options available.

  • Cirque Smart Cat Track Pad: Features extra-large touch surface, one-touch scroll, zoom, surf and USB connectivity. It includes four programmable mouse click options for the PC. You must download free software from their website to program these options. You can use the side of your hand or your knuckles to operate.
  • Glassouse: Control your computer, tablet or smart phone through Bluetooth glasses by operating your cursor with head movements. Performs mouse functions with a variety of switch options. Sensitivity and calibration are adjustable.
  • Kensington Expert Trackball: Designed for PCs and Macs, this mouse uses optical technology for smooth, precise cursor movement. It has four programmable buttons for customizing click options. You must download free software from their website to program these buttons. You can use the side of your hand or your knuckles to operate. You'll find the wireless version here.
  • KensingtonSlimBlade Trackball: Control cursor and scrolling by twisting the ball. Media mode controls volume, play/pause, stop and track forward/backward. Four programmable buttons can be set to the function or keyboard shortcut you use most.
  • Lipsync Mouse: Mouth-operated joystick allows a person with minimal head and neck movement to control a computer cursor. Ideal for wheelchair-mounted use since all of the electronics are housed in the head of the device.
  • Quadstick: This mouth-operated mouse/game controller for quadriplegics is compatible with the PS3, Android and many PC games that use a joystick, mouse or keyboard. It can also be used as a mouse and can control other infrared devices. The Quadstick website features a large user forum as well as downloadable controller profiles for specific games.
  • Quha Zono: Provides accurate and intuitive computer access with small head movements. Compatible with all computers and most tablets and smart phones.
  • SEMCO QuadJoy: Simply hold the hygienic joy stick with your lips to control the cursor on your computer screen. Click by sipping and puffing. The Quadjoy can also be powered from an electric wheelchair and connected via Bluetooth to be operated wirelessly. Upgrading your Quadjoy software to QS-Joystick Mode allows use as a Microsoft 16-button x-y axis joystick for PC videogames.
  • SmartNav 4AT: Total hands-free mouse alternative. Uses head control with a reflective dot on the forehead or cap and can be adjusted for limited movement. Performs mouse clicks using dwell clicking software and an external switch. You'll find the Mac version here.
  • Smyle Mouse: Watches your head and facial movements through a compatible web cam to control your mouse. No adaptive switches or stickers on face are requires. For devices running Microsoft Windows 7 or above. Includes a 14-day free trial.
  • TetraMouse: Designed to be operated with the lips, chin or tongue for those with no upper extremity movement. This unit is compatible with any computer that has an available USB port and any operating system capable of using a USB mouse. Does not require special software.

Tobii Dynavox Eye Gaze Devices

The following eye gaze devices are used with Tobii Dynavox Windows Control Software. Check your system requirements before purchasing. Their website also details a variety of training resources. Some of these devices are designed for tablets, while others are for desktop computers; some have built-in microphones and switch-access options. Note: These products cannot be used with dual monitors.

Click here for a variety of training videos and other useful information about Dynavox products.

  • PCEye Mini: This portable eye-tracker easily attaches to your desktop screen (up to 19 inches) or laptop using a magnetic mounting bracket and USB connection. Cannot be used with dual monitors.
  • PCEye Plus: Combines eye tracking, speech recognition and switch control for accessing your computer. Built-in microphone works with speech recognition software for dictation. Also includes a switch port so you can add switches for clicking your mouse. Can be used with curved monitors.
  • EyeR: Enables you to add infrared functionality to any tablet, laptop or desktop computer so you can control infrared-enabled devices (doors, beds, lights, TVs, DVDs, telephones, stereos, toys, etc.). EyeR is compatible with all Tobii Dynavox eye trackers.

Microphone Options

Microphones are an easy, versatile way to connect to your computer and voice recognition software. Therapists at Craig Hospital’s Tech Lab suggest microphones equipped with noise cancellation. Built-in microphones may be an option. However, we encourage patients to try them first. Consider the following options if you are not satisfied with your device's built-in microphone.

Desktop microphones are convenient for individuals in wheelchairs as they can roll up to their microphone without needing a caregiver to set them up. Before buying a microphone, research several before choosing one that works best for you and your needs. You may consider using a wired desktop microphone or a bluetooth wireless microphone. Dragon software comes with a wired headset. The wireless package includes a Plantronics Calisto Bluetooth® headset. View microphones specifically recommended for Dragon. [Note: All desktop microphones require a reasonably quiet environment.]

Desktop Microphones

  • 18” Insync Buddy Desktop: May be less accurate than a headset microphone but is an effective alternative; has a mute switch.
  • 30” Insync Buddy: Accurate dictation in moderately noisy environments. Microphone can be used from 2-6” away allowing for optimum positioning.
  • Flamingo Buddy Microphone: Designed for laptops and tablets with USB ports. The portable, cordless units plugs directly into the USB port and is eight inches long.
  • Samson Go Mic: Portable USB microphone clips on a laptop or sits on a desk. Works well with voice recognition software.

Bluetooth Microphones

All of these Bluetooth devices offer a multi-point feature that is easy to access for those with physical disabilities. This allows users to access their cell phones and computers through the same Bluetooth (by toggling between the two devices). A USB adapter is needed to pair your Bluetooth with your computer.

  • Motorola Hint: Small enough to fit inside the ear and activated with a swipe of the finger instead of pressing a button. Contains three microphones designed to eliminate background noise. The unit announces the caller and waits for you to say “answer” or “ignore.” Comes with a portable charging case.
  • Plantronics Calisto: Wideband technology to improve PC use, extended boom, 6 hours of talk time, 60 hours of standby time. Does not have ear bud adjustment.
  • Plantronics Voyager Edge: Syncs to your contacts and announces the caller or number. The unit waits for you to respond “answer” or “ignore.” Portable case provides up to 10 hours power for recharging while you’re on the go. Also has multipoint capability.
  • Plantronics Voyager Legend: Directs calls to your phone or headset, pauses music for incoming calls, and allows you to automatically answer with voice commands by placing the headset on your ear. Announces the caller or number and waits for you to say “answer” or “ignore.” It has multipoint capability that allows you to pair it with multiple devices.
  • Plantronics Voyager Pro HD: Dual microphone, 6 hours of talk time, 5 days of standby time, and 3 gel and two foam ear bud sizes.
  • Plantronics USB Adapter: Plugs into the USB port, linking the Bluetooth headset to your computer.

Accessibility Features

  • Windows Accessibility: Information about accessibility features and support for recent versions of Windows.
  • Cortana for Windows 10: This personal assistant much like Siri can be used to set alarms and reminders, manage your calendar and notes, open any app on your computer, find files, and much more.
  • Microsoft Office Accessibility Center: Information about accessibility for Office products. You'll find links to helpful articles, like keyboard shortcuts for the product and detailed instructions for using them.
  • Mac Accessibility: To assist those with cognitive and learning disabilities, every Mac includes an alternative, simplified user interface that rewards exploration and learning. For those who find it difficult to use a mouse, every Mac computer includes Mouse Keys, Slow Keys and Sticky Keys, which adapt the computer to the user’s needs and capabilities.

Additional Resources

CogLink: A personalized, simple-to-use, safe email service that comes with automated training and unlimited access to a Help Desk for questions and troubleshooting for a one-time fee. CogLink eliminates visual clutter, is simple and clear, has no hidden menus, and eliminates the need to remember email addresses. Click on the photo or name of a person and the email address will enter automatically.

Ad Blocking Software:

Pop-up ads can be distracting and confusing, especially to those who have had a brain injury. Ad blocking software can make using the internet a more productive and enjoyable experience. There are many brands of software available. You can conduct a web search for an ad blocker for the specific web browser you use, but here are some options:

On-Screen Keyboards

If you cannot use a standard keyboard, an on-screen keyboard is a virtual keyboard on your computer screen so you can type using a mouse. Windows has an on-screen keyboard built into its operating system. It can be found in: Start/All Programs/Accessories/Accessibility/On-Screen Keyboard or alternatively from Windows key + U. (Here’s a brief video explaining how it works). Macs have on-screen keyboards built into their operating systems.

  • Comfort Software: Designed for Windows 7, 8 and 10. Features word prediction, abbreviation expansion and multiple languages.
  • ScreenDoors Software: Leading onscreen keyboard software for Windows. By clicking on the on-screen keyboard, a list of predicted words appears that can help speed entry. While not fully compatible with Windows 7, this software can function properly in an administrative account.
  • For Mac Computers: How to activate your Mac on-screen keyboard.

* The Tech Lab offers these resources for educational purposes and does not endorse any products, including those mentioned on this site. Many others are available. Please check online for additional products, manufacturers and user reviews.