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The mouse is dead? We killed it years ago!

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Gids | 17:09 UK time, Wednesday, 23 July 2008

I'm sure many Ouch readers took an interest in the BBC News story Say goodbye to the computer mouse, as many disabled people are ahead of the curve having binned their mice years ago for far more futuristic input technology! Ouch reader Martin Wildman wrote into us with his own take:

I am a quadriplegic who is completely paralysed from the neck down and I use my computer with a Smartnav baseball cap which allows me to move the mouse cursor, as well as some voice recognition.
Saying that computer mouse is obsolete is very narrow minded. It seems amazing to me that the computer expert from Gartner has no idea that some people might find a normal computer difficult to use. This means he is not even considering people with disabilities.

Martin's is just one example of the range ingenious ways in which disabled people are already using a computer, often without the traditional mouse, keyboard or monitor anywhere to be seen. A feat which makes the fuss around the Nintendo Wii and gaming headsets seem positively retro by comparison.

But whatever you think of the humble mouse, a new force is silently tapping and sliding its way into our lives and provoking strong views from many disabled people, as Martin continues:

It makes me laugh when people say that everybody prefers a touchscreen interface. I don't! Mainly because I can't use one! Anybody like me could in practice have a problem even getting near to a computer screen, let alone touching one.

and hear lies the rub of it (excuse the pun.)

The touchscreen, however trendy, is not an accessible option for many people, who prefer or depend on the real click, audible clunk and consistency of devices with real buttons. But with the rise of the iphone, Nintendo DS and other touchscreen gizmos, we may find ourselves, rather than grabbing the latest thing, clinging to the last devices using this seemingly out of fashion technology. Going from cutting edge to luddite in one smooth multi-touch gestured stroke! Now if you'll excuse me I'm off to start a 'Save the Buttons' group on Facebook. Who's with me?


  • Comment number 1.

    Diversity is the key. Mouse, gerbil, rollerball, touchscreen, clickwheel, interesting hats, sensors on your cheek muscles... even old-fashioned keyboard shortcuts, all have pros and cons. There is no Single Best Solution despite what assorted fanboys would have us believe.

  • Comment number 2.

    Batsgirl: Definitely truth in what you say. To be fair, for every person who moans about fancy touchscreens, there's someone using a head-pointer who relies on them. So the more input options are out there the merrier!

  • Comment number 3.

    Can anyone tell me what sort of computer software there is out there for disabled people? I know of a few adaptations that you can have as my colleague has special software that helps him to use the computer at our work, I think its called "Step 2" or something and powered by his electric wheelchair but are there any others that people know of that could help people like my colleague or other isabled people?

  • Comment number 4.

    @Ablegirl, not sure about this specific case, but there is some access software and hardware described at:

  • Comment number 5.

    Touch screens are really bad news for visually impaired people. I have tried making tactile overlays etc. but you invariably end up touching the wrong something or other. They must save a lot of money for manufacturers, though. That's the main thing eh?

  • Comment number 6.

    Having been a Quadriplegic Incomplete for over ten years now, i've found that only an optic mouse will do, and that must have a cable. This i stear with my right fist and click with my left hand, with which i also press the keys. Luckily i've no need of a touchscreen.
    The disability market is huge, but we are hardly catered for concerning accessories, unless they are high-tec exspensive gadgets.
    We all have little ideas and innovations using hardware and even flashes of insperation on how programming can be improved when surfing, but it's where to take these ideas for all to benefit,


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