14 tech tools that enhance computing for the disabled

Getting work done on a computer is easily within reach of the blind and physically disabled with the help of these new and updated tools

Muscle messages: The Impulse system

For those with amputated, paralyzed or impaired limbs, AbleNet's Impulse system can be the ticket to using a computer without having to resort to bulky mechanical aids. Impulse replaces the traditional keyboard and mouse with a small device fitted to the user's skin that uses electromyography technology to sense, amplify and transmit the small electrical impulses sent from the brain to the muscle. It works with many different areas of the body, including the neck and face, and can turn a wink or smile into a click.

Impulse's disposable electrode sensor sticks to the skin; a small Bluetooth transmitter snaps on top. Specialized third-party communications software installed on the PC, such as E Z Keys (sold separately), interprets the user's input and carries out the commands. The user can navigate a PC's applications, surf the Web and type with an on-screen keyboard.

Impulse works only with Windows XP or Vista. The Impulse transmitter costs $2,100; 120 disposable electrodes add $100. AbleNet offers a two-week free loaner program if you want to try it out.

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