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More MS news articles for November 2002

Using computer accessories to improve lifestyle for the handicapped

Oct 30, 2002
Deutsche Presse-Agentur (dpa)
Bjoern Brodersen, dpa

Special keyboards, substitutes for the mouse, and large screens are among the technical aids which help minimise disadvantages for handicapped people who use computers.

Heiko Todt, manager of the Gorlo and Todt hardware maker, estimates that 95 per cent of physically handicapped people can be helped to use a PC by specially converted apparatus.

A spastic living in a wheelchair can, for example, use an extra large keyboard and directional keys as substitutes for a mouse. This enable him to exchange emails and play chess, or perform any one of dozens of other functions.

Heinz Besgen, head of a Siemens project called "computers help healing and living", says that hardware assistance for handicapped people comes in two types: for people with physical handicaps and for those with visual handicaps.

Larger keyboards allow people with motoric problems to work more easily, he said. Smaller keyboards are ideal for users who might not be able to use their hands but whose motoric function was good. People with wasting diseases, rheumatics and multiple sclerosis, for example, could use the smaller keyboard with a magnet pencil.

More complicated cases could also be catered for, he said. A person with the remnants of fingertip movements, for example, could have a silicon cast of the hand made and fitted with tiny switches. This enabled a mouse to be controlled.

There were also a variety of other substitutes for the mouse, depending on the user's individual requirements.

Guenter Pieper, training officer at a firm specialising in equipment for handicapped people, says that any handicapped person can use a PC as long as he or she can move body parts.

Seriously handicapped people can be helped by the use of inhale- exhale techniques or eye sensors.

People whose only movement is opening and shut the eyelids can control a PC through infra-red signals. Cameras can read iris movements and move the screen cursor accordingly.

Also available are braille screens so the blind can feel each line with the fingers. This is complemented with braille keyboard and a braille printer.

The blind can also be helped by the use of speech sensitive technologies. Text can be turned into speech. Scanners can read text and convert it to speech.

Todt says that before buying a PC, a handicapped person must think about precisely which piece of apparatus is needed.

© Copyright 2002 dpa Deutsche Presse-Agentur GmbH