February 15, 2010 (Computerworld) For most of us, sitting down in front of a computer for work or play is a pretty simple affair. But for people who are blind, paralyzed or otherwise physically disabled, using a computer can be an exercise in frustration.
However, a new generation of gadgets, gizmos and software is making it easier for disabled computer users to travel the digital world, interact with others and get work done without hitting the roadblocks that older technologies imposed. A blind accountant can tell screen-reading software to read spreadsheet data aloud to her, while a paralyzed programmer can write code by controlling his computer with the subtle movement of his neck muscles.
The key is that the PC is a general computing device that's adaptable to different forms of input and output. The computer doesn't care, for instance, that the user is controlling the pointer with her feet or eye movements instead of a traditional mouse and keyboard.
I've gathered together 15 innovative items that can help the disabled take better advantage of the mainstream world of computing. These devices use a variety of recent technologies and are available for a wide range of prices, from free to thousands of dollars.
These days, using a computer and being an integral part of the business world is not just for the able-bodied, but for everyone.
Click on the thumbnails on the right to see the devices you're interested in, or just go to the first product.