If you have a tremor then attempting to use a computer mouse can be very tiresome. There are lots of varying degrees of tremor so you may find that simply adjusting the motion speed of your mouse makes a huge difference. Other users may find that they require a whole new access device such as a rollerball. This page briefly deals with all the possible solutions available to people who are struggling to use the mouse.
It can be very difficult for people with tremors to target the mouse cursor on to a button or other target. Once in position it is then often even more difficult to hold the mouse steady while they click the left mouse button.
This is the first thing that most users should try. Windows has built-in options for varying the speed of the cursor and these apply whether you are using a mouse, joystick, rollerball and even most headpointers.
Open up the Windows Control Panel by going to Start and selecting Control Panel from the menu.
If there is no Control Panel in your Start Menu then your school's technician or network administrator has stopped you from being able to access it!
Windows Key, Arrow Keys (to select Control Panel), Enter
Within the Control Panel, locate the 'Mouse' icon and double-click it to open the Mouse options.
If you struggle with double-clicking then you can click on it once to highlight it, and then press the enter key to open it.
M (until Mouse is highlighted), ENTER
Fortunately, slowing the mouse's motion down can solve the tremor problems. The downside to this is that it can take ages to get from one part of the screen to another. The other problem is that because the mouse is slower it feels a lot heavier to use, and can be rather tiring. But the frustration caused by not being able to target can be exhausting!
The pointer trails can make your mouse pointer easier to follow visually (I have a separate article on the visibility of the mouse pointer).
Increasing the speed of the mouse pointer can be beneficial for people with muscular weakness difficulties, such as caused by Muscular Dystrophy or Motor Neurone Disease. Although accuracy is reduced it can make moving the mouse or mouse alternative significantly less tiring. Accuracy can then be increased by enlarging the display.
Windows XP's built-in accessibility options only allow the speed of the mouse pointer to be adjusted. Extra software can be downloaded that takes a more intelligent approach. SteadyMouse and MouseCage both work by attempting to 'level out' a tremor and predict the intended path of the mouse pointer. They are available to download from these locations:
By making everything on the screen that bit bigger, you are making the buttons and other targets easier to focus the mouse pointer upon. The easiest way to make everything bigger is to lower your resolution, but a full description of the various methods can be found in this introductory article to the Windows Display .
Slowing down a standard mouse only takes you so far. If you have a severe tremor and this is not effective for you, you may want to consider an alternative 'pointing device'. A list of mice, rollerballs and specialist joysticks can be found in the equipment area of the site.
A common problem in using the mouse is keeping the pointer steady while clicking. This takes a great degree of control in the fingers and wrist and can often be solved by an external switch. A switch such as a buddy button can be attached via a switch interface or directly into an alternative mouse that supports switches built-in. This can then be operated as a left or right click (or one switch for each) by your other hand (or any other part of the body) so that your mouse-hand can hold steady.
A mouse isn't actually required for most tasks on the computer. It is possible to use the keyboard to accomplish many of the things that we'd usually reach for our mouse to do. This separate tutorial takes you through the ins and outs of reducing mouse use or doing away with the mouse altogether.
This website is packed full of information that can help people who struggle to use standard keyboards and mice. Here is just a selection:
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