In the past few days, a lot of people have been asking me about choosing a computer mouse with low vision and how to make computer mice accessible for vision impairment. Even though I use a lot of touchscreen devices, it's important for me to have a computer mouse that I can use and see on the screen. Here are my tips for choosing a computer mouse with low vision and how to make computer mice accessible for vision impairment.
- Choosing Technology: Laptop
- How To Make Keyboards Easier To See
- Why I Brought A Desktop Computer to College
Can blind people use a computer mouse?
While I'm sure that there are some that do, most people with no usable vision do not use a computer mouse. This is because they can't see the on-screen cursor or scan for items on the screen. Instead, they use a screen reader and keyboard shortcuts when navigating a computer, or use a gesture-based mobile screen reader such as VoiceOver.
Mark the left and right side with different colors or textures
One of my friends was trying to find a way to distinguish between the left and right side of their mouse since they often get the different sides confused. I suggested that they make the two sides different colors so that it could improve contrast. Another option would be to add tactile labels or a way to feel the difference between the two sides.
Some examples of ways you can make the left and right side of your mouse different colors and textures include:
- Washi tape
- Foam shapes
- Tactile dots
- Large text labels
These materials are highly unlikely to damage your computer mouse, and many provide both color and texture contrast.
- How To Create Tactile Images With Everyday Objects
- How To Make Medication Bottles Accessible For Vision Impairment
Consider an adaptive computer mouse
There are many different adaptive computer mice that can be used to help people with low vision and other motor difficulties. For example, one of the computers in my Modeling and Simulation class has a mouse with large left/right keys and a large trackball in the center, which allows me to move the cursor on the screen without having to move my hand.
Some examples of adaptive computer mice include:
- Trackball mouse
- Vertical mouse that can be used at an angle
- Standard computer mouse with tactile labels
Finding your hardware preferences
While I can adapt well to using just about any computer mouse hardware, I dislike using flat computer mice that have no curve, or computer mice that feel flimsy in my hand. Here are some examples of things to consider when choosing a computer mouse:
- Ergonomics- how does the mouse feel in your hand? Does it cause pain?
- Ease of use- can you move the mouse around and figure out where it is on the screen?
- Feedback- can you tell when the mouse is working as it should?
- Connection- how does the mouse connect to your computer? I prefer wireless mice, but some people may want a wired connection
- Cost- how much does the mouse cost?
Should I use a computer mouse with my laptop if I have low vision?
A lot of my friends use their laptop as their primary computer and prefer to use the mouse trackpad that is built-in to their computer. Here's why they prefer using it:
- "I don't have to move my wrist too much"
- "It's easier for me to figure out where the mouse is on the screen"
- "Since there's laptops all over the place at this college, I think it's important to know how to use both a regular mouse and a laptop mouse"
- "I lost my computer mouse."
- "My computer mouse lets me do gestures like pinch-to-zoom."
While many of my friends do enjoy using their computer's mouse trackpad, here's some other friends who made the case for using an external mouse:
- "When I have to hold my face close to the screen, I have to use my hand at a weird angle so I can keep using the mouse. It feels more natural to use an external mouse."
- "I hurt my hand and it takes forever for me to use the trackpad."
- "I don't have to worry about accidentally activating it when typing."
- "The trackpad feels unnatural to me, I don't like how flat it is."
No matter what their hardware preferences were, my friends all agreed that having software accessibility settings enabled is critical for being able to use a mouse.
Computer mouse accessibility settings for low vision
Once you choose your computer mouse, it's important to configure accessibility settings for low vision to ensure you can use the computer mouse. I do this by going to the Ease of Access Center and selecting the option for making my computer mouse easier to see. Here are the accessibility settings I have for my computer mouse on my Windows 10 computer:
- Change the size of the mouse pointer- I use the extra large setting
- Within computer mouse settings and pointer options, I choose to disable pointer trails since I find them disorienting, but it may help other students
- Hide pointer when typing- helpful for people who want to focus
- Show location of pointer when I press the control key on the keyboard- super helpful
- Changing scrolling settings- determine how many lines you want to scroll down when using the scroll wheel
- Double click speed- adjust speed so it is faster or slower
- Click lock- press the mouse key once and then highlight/drag and object, click again when finished
- Custom colored mouse pointer- coming very soon, choose your own high-contrast color for the mouse pointer to help with tracking
For students with vision impairments or multiple disabilities, it's important for them to have access to a computer mouse for vision impairment that they can use with ease. After all, having access to technology can dramatically change a student's life. By knowing important items to consider when choosing a computer mouse, it will be easy to start learning or improving important computer skills.