Selecting Assistive Technology for Someone who has Mobility or Dexterity Impairments

The following guidelines may be helpful when assessing the suitability of assistive technology for people who have a mobility or dexterity or impairment. The list is not intended to be fully inclusive, as each person’s situation is unique.

Hardware Guidelines

  1. For free-standing equipment, is the highest operable part of controls, dispensers, receptacles, and other operable equipment placed within at least one of the following reach ranges? (a) If a forward approach is required, the maximum high forward reach is 48 inches.(b) If a side approach is allowed, and the reach is not over an obstruction, the maximum high side reach is 54 inches; if it is over an obstruction which is no more than 24 inches wide and 34 inches high, the maximum high side reach is 46 inches.
  2. Is the force required to operate or activate controls no greater than 5 lbs?
  3. Can users confirm their selections? For instance, if a person has limited fine motor control, such as a person who has a palsy, it is helpful for him or her to have the opportunity to confirm selections such as "number of copies" selected before the operation begins.
  4. Are controls and operating mechanisms operable with one hand and operable without tight grasping, pinching, or twisting of the wrist?
  5. Are there alternate operating mechanisms for persons who cannot use push-style controls? For example, are there alternative methods of control such as voice activation for routine tasks?
  6. Can the user confirm the selected options before submitting?

Functional Guidelines For Dexterity

  1. Ensure the product has a wrist guard or forearm rest.
  2. Using a trackball may be easier than using an optical mouse.
  3. Ensure keyboard responses are modifiable, such as with sticky keys, reduced response rate, heightened or reduced sensitivity to movement.
  4. Keyboard guards can prevent unintentional keyboard presses.
  5. Alternate layout keyboards are helpful for one-handed typing.
  6. Consider an alternate format mouse for ease of selection or input.
  7. Screen reader software to convert speech to text can reduce or eliminate the need for typing.

Functional Guidelines For Mobility

  1. Screen reader software to convert speech to text can reduce or eliminate the need for keyboard input or mouse use.
  2. Consider alternate input devices which do not require hand movement, such as mouth pointers, head sticks, sip-and-puff switches.
  3. Adjustable desks can accommodate a wheelchair.

When assessing a product for suitability it is important that the product be looked at in light of the user’s needs, and that the product fulfills a specific, definable function required by the end-user.

People with more than one disability may require additional functionality. Please refer to the other articles in this series for more information.

Useful Links

The following links may provide additional help in selecting assistive technology for people who are mobility or dexterity-impaired: