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.
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 and Windows 8 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, etc. or personalize the vocabulary with custom words and phrases. The software comes with a wired headset. Three versions are available: 1) Home Edition; 2) Premium Edition; and 3) Professional Edition. The wireless package comes with the Plantronics Calisto Bluetooth headset.
- Dragon for Mac: Dragon’s software for Mac computers is slightly different from its PC version. It requires more mouse use and the commands are longer. You are also limited in your web browsing capabilities when using voice commands. You can use your voice to create and edit text or jump to Dragon’s predetermined list of Internet sites. The wireless package comes with the Plantronics Calisto Bluetooth headset.
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 web site to program these options. You can use the side of your hand or your knuckles to operate.
- 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 web site to program these buttons. You can use the side of your hand or your knuckles to operate.
- Kensington SlimBlade Trackball: control cursor and scrolling by twisting the ball. Four adjustable buttons can be programmed to the function or keyboard shortcut you use most. Compatible for both PC and Mac computers and has two modes (navigation and media). Note: you have to download the software to program the buttons.
- Kensington SlimBlade Wireless Trackball: wireless version of the Kensington Slimblade Trackball above. Control cursor and scrolling by twisting the ball. Four adjustable buttons can be programmed to the function or keyboard shortcut you use most. Compatible for both PC and Mac computers and has two modes (navigation and media). Note: you have to download the software to program the buttons. Doesn’t require as much upper extremely strength compared to previous Kensington models.
- 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 web site features a large user forum as well as downloadable controller profiles for specific games.
- 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. You'll find the Mac version here.
- SEMCO QuadJoy: simply hold the hygienic joy stick with your lips to control the cursor on your computer screen. Click by sipping and puffing. 48 edge-mounted LED indicators guide you through the functions. They can be dimmed to avoid eye strain. 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.
- TetraMouse 7: designed to be operated with the lips, chin or tongue for those with no upper extremity movement. One joystick positions the mouse pointer and the other performs left, right, middle and scroll functions.
- Tobii PC Eye Go: replaces a standard mouse so you can navigate and control your computer using your eyes. Click here for a brief video.
Microphones are an easy, versatile way to connect to your computer and voice recognition software. Therapists at Craig Hospital’s Adaptive Tech Lab suggest microphones with built-in noise cancellation. Therapists at Craig Hospital’s Tech Lab suggest microphones with noise cancellation. Built-in microphones aren’t recommended because they tend to pick up background noises and are less accurate.
Desk top 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 of 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.]
- 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.
- Desktop Buddy Microphone: provides clear voice quality in noisy environments. Plugs into your USB device, has an on/off button and is 18-inches long.
- 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 is 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 which allows you to pair it with multiple devices.
- Plantronics Voyager Pro HD: dual microphone, 6 hours of talk time, 5 days of standby time, 3 gel and two foam ear bud sizes.
- USB Adapter: plugs into the USB port, linking the Bluetooth headset to your computer.
- Microsoft Office 2010: includes many helpful built in accessibility features that make it easier for people with disabilities to use this software.
- Windows 7: includes the following features to make it easier to see, hear and use your computer:
- Ease of Access center
- Change Text Size
- OnScreen Keyboard
- Windows Touch
- Keyboard Shortcuts
- Visual Notifications
- Change Text Size
- Windows 8: includes many of the same options as Windows 7, but with a slightly different appearance.
- Mac: 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.
- 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. ItCogLink eliminates visual clutter, is simple and clear, has no hidden menus, and eliminates the need to remember e-mail addresses. You click on the photo or name of a person and the e-mail 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:
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).
- ScreenDoors Software: leading onscreen keyboard software for Windows. By clicking the onscreen keyboard, a list of predicted words appears which speeds entry. While not fully compatible with Windows 7, this software can function properly in an administrative account.
- Comfort Software: is designed for Windows XP, Vista, 7,8, and 10 with touchscreen. Features word prediction, abbreviation expansion and multiple languages.
- For Mac Computers: click here to learn how to activate your Mac onscreen 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.