Controls: number, size, spacing, force

Touch-Free Devices for Indoor Use

Fixtures and devices that are responsive to motion rather than physical contact are becoming increasingly popular. These benefit not only people with dexterity disabilities, but also people with a fear of germs and people temporarily unable to use their hands because of injury or because they are holding books, groceries, or a baby. Many products are available in touch-free models; in some cases, modifications are available for existing products. Installation of these products is often a good strategy for complying with Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) regulations.

Toilets

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Assistive Technology and Elders

When considering assistive computer technology for elders, three issues need to be addressed: how will they need to be accommodated, what technology exists to provide accommodations, and how can these technologies be presented so elders will use them.

How Do Elders Need To Be Accommodated?

For elders, disability exists on a continuum of severity. Some disabilities are a natural part of aging and are generally mild.  Other disabilities rise in incidence with age, and may be mild to severe. Finally, more people with mild to severe long-term disabilities are living well beyond retirement age.

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Accessible Options for Art, Music, and Other Creative Activities

Creativity software can help users bypass the most difficult physical, sensory, and cognitive aspects of making art, while enabling expression and exploration. While there is not much high-tech hardware or software for making art specifically made for people with disabilities, there are a variety of mainstream options that can be put to this purpose. Many of these are particularly relevant to people with dexterity disabilities that prevent them from holding a paintbrush or strumming a guitar.

This article covers some of those options in:

  • Painting/Drawing
  • Making Music
  • Photography
  • Video and Animation

If you already have a creativity application, examine the interface, documentation, and online resources; you will usually find at least some of these usability and accessibility features:

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Making Browsers More Accessible

Browsers are the software programs used to access the web, such as Internet Explorer, Firefox, Chrome, and Opera. All have accessibility features built in; you can add more features by downloading add-ons. This article covers what's available for each of these popular browsers.

Internet Explorer

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Gaming Systems (Wii, etc.)

Gaming systems like Playstation, Wii, and XBox are powerful technologies for education, entertainment, and exercise.  They include a console, a handheld controller, game media, and a connector to a television for display.  Some connect to the Internet as well.

They can be used to play physical games or mental puzzles, chat by voice or text with others, browse the web, and watch videos.

There are specialized input devices for different activities, and some have been created or modified for people with disabilities.  New controllers include object, face, and voice recognition technologies -- exciting options for accessibility.

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Alternative and Augmentative Communication--What Is It?

People may have difficulty speaking due to a physical injury or a disability (e.g., cerebral palsy), a cognitive impairment (such as brain injury or autism), or both physical and cognitive disabilities. Some of these people use alternative and augmentative communication (AAC) strategies for communication. This article covers the general principles of AAC; more information about specific strategies is in our article about Alternative and Augmentative Communication--What are the Options?

AAC needs to be matched to the user's physical and cognitive capabilities, but also to the immediacy of their communication needs. If someone is trying to communicate, it is better to quickly provide simple but reasonably effective strategies, such as a sheet of paper with pictures that she can point to, than to wait until more sophisticated options are available.

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Software and Hardware Media Players

Audio and video files can be played on hardware devices (such as an iPod or portable DVD player), or via software on a computer (such as Windows Media Player or Apple QuickTime). This article discusses what to consider when determining options for making these files available for use by individuals with various types of disabilities.

Hardware media players

Controls: Controls should require minimal hand movement and activation pressure for the benefit of people with dexterity disabilities. Make sure that they are not too easy to activate or too close together.  Multiple controls with different shapes allow blind users to distinguish among them by touch.

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Accessible Mice

Standard mice may be hard for some people to move or click. There are mainstream alternatives like trackballs, joysticks, and track pads.  There are also specialized mice specifically designed for people with disabilities. Other solutions require little or no hand and arm movement. This article describes a range of alternatives to using the standard mouse.

Try It Yourself:

Several built-in utilities help with moving the pointer and clicking:

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Accessibility Features in Computer Programs

Most word processors, spreadsheets, and other popular programs include features that are useful to people with disabilities. These are often documented in the application’s Help function under “Accessibility.”

Examples

Zoom magnifies the size of the document text on the screen, so that it can be viewed at one size and printed out at another without needing to reformat. This does not affect the text size of other parts of the application, such as the menu bar or dialogue boxes; to change these, see “Accessibility Features in Operating Systems.”

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Apple’s Mobile Products (iPad, iPhone, and iPod Touch)

In many ways, Apple’s iPads, iPhones, and iPod Touch are ideal accessibility tools. They’re lightweight and easy to use. The wide range of applications -- built-in, free, or generally inexpensive -- suit a variety of needs. The touchscreen interface is ideal for many people who can't use a keyboard or mouse. Finally, because they’re mainstream products, people use them without feeling self-conscious or paying a large amount of money. This article covers some of the accessibility features and ways you can use these devices.

Apple has included some powerful accessibility features in the iOS operating system used by its mobile devices:

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