Gizmos and Gadgets
by Shawn Floyd
Welcome to Gizmos and Gadgets! In each newsletter, this column will focus on different technological advances that can improve the life of those with SCITraditional Mouse. This time around we will look a common assistive pointer device for the personal computer, the trackball mouse. A trackball is essentially a traditional mouse that's lying on it's back. To move the pointer, you move the ball with your hand and then use the buttons that are usually near the ball, just as you would the buttons on a regular mouse. However, there are as many different configurations as there are manufacturers - and there are a lot.
Most major companies that make peripherals for computers now offer some type of trackball and some have a couple of different types. The options can be endless. The ball can be located in all sorts of positions within the mouse. Most commonly it is in the middle or slightly forward on the mouse, but some can be placed closer to one side to be moved with the thumb. There can be communication to your computer through serial or USB connections, or in the case of wireless mice, use infrared or radio waves. One of the biggest advantages over the traditional mouse is that because it is stationary, it does not require much space to use.
Trackballs have also been gaining popularity in the general population because they offer ergonomic relief from Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI) and Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS) that have been associated with computer use. While they can be a convenience and offer pain relief to the general population, they may be a necessity for those with limited hand function due to a SCI.
Trackball MouseOne company in particular, GPK, Inc., has designed a trackball specifically for those with limited or no hand or finger function called the Quadtrac. It was designed by a C4-5 quadriplegic for use by others with disabilities due to arthritis, CTS, RSI or paralysis. The one way in which this is very different from other trackballs is that there are two large remote buttons that perform the same functions as the buttons on the mouse. This makes it much easier for those without full use of their hands because they can use one hand to click and the other to move the cursor.
According to their website, "This is particularly helpful in situations where it is necessary to hold down the left or right button and move the pointing device at the same time. The remote switches make it possible to use one hand to click and the other to move the cursor." The Quadtrac is available for either serial or USB connections and requires no specialized software or drivers.
If you have been struggling trying to use a traditional mouse because of limited hand function or pain, or if you are just looking to try something a little bit different without a huge investment, maybe a trackball is for you. For more information, check out your local computer shop, or office supply store.
For more information on the Quadtrac GPK can be reached online at www.gpk.com or at 1-800-468-8679.
Reprinted with Permission
Virginia Commonwealth University Regional SCI Model System
The Source - Information, News, and Resources for Persons with Spinal Cord Injury Information, News, and Resources for Persons with Spinal Cord
Volume 8, Issue 1, Fall 2003