Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Sticky Keys: Not Just a Mishap with Soda & Your Keyboard

keyboard and soda
One of my favorite Ease of Access functions for Windows is Sticky Keys. It is a simple but effective way of making a standard keyboard more useable for someone with limited mobility. Simply press the Shift key 5 times and a dialog box will appear on your screen to ask if you want to turn on Sticky Keys. Press Enter or click Yes and you are ready to go.
Sticky Keys allows you to enable a function key like the Shift, Ctrl or Alt and any other key without having to hold them down at the same time. So if you want to type @, instead of holding down Shift and pressing the 2 you can now, with Sticky Keys enabled, press and release the Shift key and then press the 2. To disable Sticky Keys simply press Shift 5 times again or once you hold down the Shift key and press any other key simultaneously the computer will make a you killed an alien spacecraft circa a 1980’s video game alert noise to let you know the function has been disabled.
As I said earlier Sticky Keys is one of my favorite Ease of Access functions and not just for the super-fun sound effect but because around 2:00 pm every day I tend to pin my left arm to my desk with my head as I wait for the afternoon caffeine to take effect and typing one handed becomes essential for the continuation of any amount of work. It’s also a really handy function if you have limited mobility or dexterity in your hands or arms.
Are you interested in learning more about accessibility features built into the Windows operating system? WATAP is a Microsoft Accessibility Resource Center (MARC) and we can help answer your questions about how to make it easier to use your computer if you have a disability and other computer access questions.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Hands-free Bluetooth

For many of us, a Bluetooth headset provides additional freedom and hands-free convenience when using a cell phone. However for anyone with an upper extremity motor impairment, it can be difficult or sometimes impossible to access the small button to activate a standard Bluetooth headset.

One product that I recently tried with a client with limited upper extremity function is the NoButtonsHeadset.

The NoButtonsHeadset is a Voice Command Bluetooth headset that is designed to make and receive cell phone calls without having to push buttons. The user activates the headset by tilting their head near a magnet that is mounted on a flexible rod. The flexible rod can be mounted on a wheelchair. The user has to hold the headset near the magnet for a few seconds to activate it. Once it is activated the user will hear voice commands that will prompt them to make a call.

The client I worked with had some challenges with locating the magnet to activate the headset. Since he was not a wheelchair user, finding a functional location to mount the magnet was challenging and affected access to the magnet. Activating the headset also required some practice but after a few attempts the client was able to activate the headset independently.

This client chose to look at other hands-free options since he did not have a permanent location to mount the magnet. However, for consumers who are wheelchair users and are looking for a hands-free cell phone option, the NoButtonsHeadset would be a good product to try. Keep in mind that you should have a good mounting location for the magnet so the user can easily reach it once the headset is on the ear. Also, an individual with limited head/neck control would most likely find it challenging to use this device.

Maria Kelley, OTR/L, Senior Assistive Technology Specialist