Many different types of technology have been developed to lessen or remove obstacles that individuals with disabilities encounter, particularly those linked to computers and technology. Assistive technology, which includes hardware and software solutions, may help with activities like reading and creating papers, interacting with others, and doing web searches.
Students and workers with impairments are becoming capable of managing a larger variety of activities independently as the varieties of assistive technology increase and mainstream technologies become more accessible.
However, there are still several obstacles that prevent persons with impairments from using computers. These obstacles may be divided into three categories: documentation, output, and input.
The methods for employing various types of assistive technology are given below.
Disabilities in Mobility
Motor control can be impacted by mobility issues on both the fine and gross levels. For instance, some wheelchair users may find regular computer tables to be excessively low, and someone without the use of their hands or arms may find it impossible to operate a standard keyboard or mouse.
For many people with impairments, equipment that allows for flexible placement of displays, keyboards, documents, and tabletops is helpful. Some people can turn equipment on and off individually by plugging all computer components into power outlet strips with readily available on and off switches.
This technology makes it possible for those who have little or never use their hands to utilize a normal keyboard. A person can operate a computer by hitting buttons with a pointing device if they have access to a finger, a mouth- or head-stick, or another pointing device. In order to allow sequential keystrokes to input instructions that often require pressing two or more keys simultaneously, software tools can construct “sticky keys” that electrically latch the SHIFT, CONTROL, and other keys. Those who have trouble with fine motor control can utilize keyboard guards, which are solid templates with holes over each key to help with exact selection.
Rearranging the keyboard and display might occasionally improve accessibility. For instance, positioning keyboards at head height perpendicular to tables or wheelchair trays can let people with restricted mobility operate the keys with their hands or pointing devices. Individuals with mobility problems might benefit from further straightforward hardware adjustments.
For people who are unable to use the regular keyboard or mouse, certain hardware modifications totally replace them.
- For persons with weak fine motor skills, expanded keyboards—larger keys placed further apart—can substitute normal keyboards.
- Those with fine motor skills but insufficient range of motion to utilize a normal keyboard can use mini-keyboards.
- There are left-handed and right-handed keyboards available for those who must use one hand to operate the computer. In comparison to conventional keyboards made for two-handed users, they offer more effective key configurations.
- A mouse can be replaced by trackballs and other specialized input devices.
Virtual keyboards are an option for people who find the aforementioned solutions to be cumbersome. Either eye gaze tracking or switches can be used to access virtual keyboards.
Users using eye gaze monitoring devices may type by glancing at various areas of the screen. Conversely, switches need the employment of at least one muscle that the person can voluntarily control (e.g., head, finger, knee, mouth).
Lights or cursors scan the virtual keyboard when scanning input. Pressing the switch allows users to choose. Numerous switches allow input devices to be customized for each user.
Another choice for those with impairments is speech input. Users can interact with computers by speaking words and letters into speech recognition systems. It is possible to teach a system to identify individual voices.
Those with limitations connected to movement may benefit even more from the software. For a frequently used text and keyboard operations, abbreviation expansion (macro) and word prediction software can simplify the input requirements.
They both anticipate whole words after multiple keystrokes and stretch an abbreviation (such as a person’s name or title) into a lengthier string of text.
Some people with learning difficulties find benefit from assistive technology intended for those with visual impairments. Large-print displays, different colors on the computer screen, and voice output, in particular, help make up for certain reading difficulties.
When words are spoken or printed in large fonts, people who have trouble understanding visual content might enhance comprehension as well as their capacity to spot and rectify mistakes.
Some people with learning difficulties have trouble reading text. To make electronic documentation more accessible, information can be magnified on the screen or read aloud using text-to-speech software. Many times, video lectures and other training techniques are favoured.