Mouse alternatives e.g. trackballs, joysticks, mouse pads, remote mouse devices, head operated mouse
A large majority of educational software currently available to students is mouse driven. For those students who may have difficulty using this form of access to software programs, there are a number of readily available alternatives that can assist. These alternatives emulate the mouse, hence the term ‘mouse emulation’. Mouse emulators have the same function as a standard mouse, except they may look different and be used in a slightly different way.
It is possible to obtain a mouse that has some simple modifications such as a switch adaptation for the mouse click, or a cordless mouse, if the connecting cord between the mouse and the computer poses a difficulty for the student in question.
Trackballs look something like an upside down mouse. By moving a ball placed on the top of the device, the mouse pointer moves around the screen. Buttons that operate in the same way as regular mouse buttons are generally situated on the surface of the device.
Trackballs come in an array of shapes and sizes, from those that are large and colourful, designed for young children, to those that fit in the palm of your hand. The position of mouse buttons may vary from device to device.
These devices are often seen as inbuilt features in laptop computers. However, they can be purchased as a stand-alone device. Mouse or track pads have a flat surface over which the user moves his or her finger in order to move the mouse cursor.
A remote mouse device is a cordless mouse solution. Typically it consists of a transmitter (mouse device) and a receiver (plugged into the computer). It can use radio or infrared technology.
Some of these devices are operated via head movements and offer students with very limited hand function an alternative option for controlling the mouse cursor on the computer. When used in conjunction with on-screen keyboards, students have an alternative option for writing text on the computer.
Other mouse alternatives
There is also a number of other alternative mouse devices in different shapes and sizes that don’t match any of the above categories. Each of these may offer different supportive features to students with disabilities. In this range there are some very small mice, mice with only one large button and one with a joystick/post for the hand to grasp. However, the latter is not a joystick and has a ball located under the device just like an ordinary mouse.
These devices can offer another way of controlling mouse movements and functions. Most are very different in response and physical appearance to wheelchair joysticks.
Mouse alternatives are available for loan to all Education Queensland facilities or through Education Queensland:
- occupational therapists, speech–language pathologists or physio-therapists
- advisory visiting teachers
- special education teachers
- support teachers
- guidance officers.
For information about the range of mouse alternatives currently available to trial please view the DSSU Online Loans Catalogue.
More information on the DSSU Loans service can be found on the DSSU Professional Community.