Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Are you looking for hands-free computer access at a low cost or even a free price tag?
I had a question come in on email yesterday concerning on-screen keyboards for writing access. The question was asking if I knew of an on-screen keyboard that would work for a person with no fine motor and only movement with the head. They asked about scanning possibilities as well as eye gaze. One of the problems was the cost - this would have to be on a shoestring budget.
Here is my answer:
Eye gaze technology is pretty spendy, but the next best thing if you have controlled head movement is the Track IR. Right now, they have one for $129. The Track IR uses a track clip or a reflective dot that can be placed on the bill of a cap, bridge of glasses or even the forehead. A little camera callibrates the computer so the dot makes the cursor/mouse move. When you dwell on a key on an on-screen keyboard, it will press the key and type the letter. The company utilizes the TrackIR more for hands-free gaming than AT. They have the "Smart Nav" that is an upscale computer access solution at about $499. It includes an on-screen keyboard software in the package. The Smart Nav would be the better access application if you can afford it.
The on-screen keyboard I use all the time is the free Click-n-Type from Lake Folks. They have a companion word prediction add-on to download as well. If you want scanning, this keyboard has a setting that can set the speed of the scan. If you aren't going for the hands-free access, by using a switch interface (see Don Johnston's pro 5.0 )and a button or appropriate switch, you can select the key you want to type by activating the switch when a set of vertical and horizontal cross hairs come together over the key. The keyboard can be re-sized and floats on top of an open word processing window to type.
With an ensemble like the free Click-n-type, and a Track IR, you have a great starter system to get that hands-free computer access going at a very reasonable cost.

All the best to you,


Lon Thornburg is an assistive technology specialist and professional development trainer who lives in Oregon and serves 12 districts in 7 counties. He hosts the No Limits 2 Learning Blog and The No Limits 2 Learning Live Talk Show on Blog Talk Radio. He is sharing as a contributing writer on LD LIVE!


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