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Almost anyone, no matter what their condition, can use a computer given the right software or hardware (20 Jun 08)

An expert’s advice on computing systems which allow all your staff and service users to reach their true potential

The standard screen, keyboard and mouse combination is hard or even impossible to use for many people.

For some this may be because they have a physical, visual or learning disability.

But many computer users who struggle to see the screen or manipulate the mouse don’t even consider themselves ‘disabled’. For example, older people with sight and dexterity problems often have difficulties.

Many employees are also significantly less productive and comfortable than they could be because they have the wrong equipment or ‘can’t use the keyboard/mouse’ effectively.

I recently spoke to Bill Fine of AbilityNet who has spent a lifetime making computers more accessible to everybody. He’s even been given a MBE for his efforts. His passion for a number of years now has been making sure everybody, disabled and able bodied alike, can benefit from simple adaptions to computer equipment.

This is what Bill had to say about the huge number of staggeringly, simple adaptions that people can make to their computing equipment:

“This is no longer just about “disability”. It’s an issue for everyone - not just “disabled people”.

It’s very often a simple, cost effective (or even no cost) solution that provides the answer to problems that computer users may have. The idea that computers could be, and indeed should be, adapted to the user is fairly new for some employers, but it can enhance performance and appreciably reduce sick leave.

A recent Health and Safety Executive report suggests that Upper Limb Disorder or ‘RSI’ is the most common cause of workplace health problems, totalling in excess of 4.2 million working days lost a year and affecting over half a million employees.

A further survey reveals that one in five PC users report some degree of pain or discomfort attributable to a non-keyboard input device – i.e. a mouse! And this figure rises steeply depending on the level and intensity of PC-based work in which the individual engages.

It’s estimated that around 50% of PC users could benefit from adaptive technology of some sort; this implies that half of us are ‘non-standard’ in some way – not so surprising really.

Fitting the computer to the user is often a matter of simply changing the settings within Windows, or using the special Accessibility options in the control panel.

For example

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