Using Handhelds to Help People with Motor Impairments
People with Muscular Dystrophy (MD) and certain other muscular and nervous system disorders lose their gross motor control while retaining fine motor control. The result is that they lose the ability to move their wrists and arms, and therefore their ability to operate a mouse and keyboard. However, they can often still use their fingers to control a pencil or stylus, and thus can use a handheld computer such as a Palm. We have developed software that allows the handheld to substitute for the mouse and keyboard of a PC, and tested it with four people (ages 10, 12, 27 and 53) with MD. The 12-year old had lost the ability to use a mouse and keyboard, but with our software, he was able to use the Palm to access email, the web and computer games. The 27-year-old reported that he found the Palm so much better that he was using it full-time instead of a keyboard and mouse. The other two subjects said that our software was much less tiring than using the conventional input devices, and enabled them to use computers for longer periods. We report the results of these case studies, and the adaptations made to our software for people with disabilities.