The Top Three Ways Technology Can Overcome Disabilities


Research shows that the number of seniors connecting to the internet and using technology is growing faster than any other age group. In fact, 60% of Canadian seniors use the internet today! Younger generations are quickly learning that older generations are just as tech savvy as they are. However, many seniors who face health challenges have difficulties using technological devices. Physical disabilities are their leading obstacle. Moreover, researchers have found that many who struggle with vision, memory, and arthritis problems are “significantly less likely” to own and use technological devices, as these challenges can make computers difficult to operate.

Thankfully, as research on disabilities has increased over the years, so has research on technology. Most computers, tablets, and phones come with built-in features that increase accessibility. Users can change their screen to make it easier to see, use closed captioning and text to speech, and even tap a button to find the mouse pointer on their computer screen. Other devices have add-on hardware that make their use easier, such as different-sized keyboards. These features have helped countless people around the world stay connected with friends and family members without worries or struggles. As researchers at the University of Tennessee found, elderly citizens, disabled individuals, and caregivers using assistive technology “found themselves with a new sense of camaraderie and friendship” once they were connected. Students for Seniors is committed to helping you enjoy the many benefits of technology. Here’s a list we’ve compiled of the top common features that computers and other devices have that can overcome disabilities. Our Ottawa and Gatineau technology tutors can give you computer assistance and help you or a family member set them up and use them, so you can break barriers and surpass stereotypes while staying connected!

  1. Break Mobility Barriers

Many people experience barriers to using technology because of arthritis, carpal tunnel, or other mobility issues. Typing and moving a mouse can be hard on their wrists, and sitting in a computer chair for hours on end can leave their backs aching and burning. However, with the variety of hardware that’s available today, users can surpass these issues without worry. For those who have limited fine motor control, perhaps after a stroke, expanded computer keyboards are available. They provide more space between the keys so that they’re easier to press without accidentally pressing other keys at the same time. However, for those who have good motor control but have a limited motion range, perhaps due to arthritis, mini-keyboards are available, too. They’re smaller than standard-sized keyboards, allowing users to type without moving their hands and arms back and forth with a wide range of motion.

Computer mice have also been developed for those with a limited range of motion. If moving a mouse around causes your shoulder or wrist to hurt, try a mouse with a track ball. The mouse itself is stationary. You use your fingers to move a small ball on the mouse. When you move the ball, the cursor moves on the screen! You won’t have to move your arm around to check your email anymore.

Tablets are also beneficial if you have trouble sitting for long periods of time while on a computer. They’re mobile, so you can sit or stand wherever you’re most comfortable while chatting with family members, checking the latest weather reports, or catching up on the news. The keyboard appears directly on the tablet’s screen, and you can rotate your device, making it vertical or horizontal. Keyboards change size when the device is rotated. Horizontal devices have large, wide keyboards and vertical devices have narrower, smaller keyboards. Most tablets also allow you to manually change the keyboard’s size in their “options” tab, adjusting the size and location of the keyboard on your screen. Instead of buying an expanded or miniature keyboard, you can simply adjust the settings on your device!

  1. Rise Above Memory Roadblocks

Learning to use a computer, the Internet, or even just new software means that you have to remember what and how to click to complete tasks. The sheer number of things that need to be learned can be overwhelming, and tasks can be especially difficult for users suffering from Alzheimer’s disease. However, computers have been developed that surpass these issues. Many fuss-free devices are available with simple and easy buttons, so users don’t have to remember to press multiple sequences with a keyboard and mouse. Examples of such devices include Telikin and MyGait, which are computers, and InTouch, which is a tablet. While they’re marketed to seniors, they also work for people who don’t want many of the options that standard computers have, and for families who want devices that are quick and simple to use, keeping browsing safe, easy, and fun.

  1. Overcome Visual Obstaclespexels-photo-196658

Most mobile and stationary devices allow you to change the size of the text and images on your screen, making them larger and easier to see. On touch devices, if you place your thumb and your forefinger on the screen as if you are pinching an invisible cord, then slowly move them away from each other while touching the screen, your device will respond by making the content on the screen larger. You can change the size back by slowly pinching your fingers together while they touch the screen. You can also open your device’s “options” or “accessibility” tab to select a font size that works for you, or select “magnification gestures” to zoom in on the screen when you make gestures that are specific to the device. For example, on a Google Nexus phone, the magnification gestures feature allows users to zoom in on the screen by triple-tapping it. You can also specify whether you want large text or small text.

Computers have similar features. For example, on a Windows computer, pressing and holding “Ctrl” on the keyboard while scrolling up on a mouse wheel will zoom in on the screen. Conversely, pressing and holding “Ctrl” while scrolling down on the mouse wheel will zoom out. Additionally, if you open your computer’s control panel and click on “Ease of Access” you can then click “Optimize visual display.” You can turn on a magnifier that will zoom in on parts of your screen, making it larger. iPads have this feature too, and can zoom up to 500x on the screen.

Computers also allow users to increase the contrast of the text on the screen. Many mobile devices have this feature too. You can even go a step further and tell your computer to read the text on the screen aloud for you, or to narrate videos as well. Of course, as long as you have speakers, these features will work, and today most devices have built-in speakers.  Mobile devices also provide you with this feature. It’s often called “Talk Back” or “Text to Speech.” On the iPad it’s called “Voice Over.” When activated, it will describe what’s under your finger when you touch the screen.

The mouse cursor, or pointer, is tiny and can often get lost on computer screens, especially as many screens are white and the mouse cursor is white, too. However, computers have an “ease of access” setting in the control panel that you can turn on that will help solve this issue. When the feature is on, pressing the “Ctrl” key on your keyboard will cause rings, or ripples to appear around the mouse cursor, showing you where it is on the screen.

You can even buy hardware that will help you see things on your computer better. Just as there are expanded and mini keyboards, there are also large text keyboards, making the letters easier to see while you type emails to friends and family members. You can also buy a magnifier for your computer. It’s a large magnifying glass with a stand that you put in front of your screen to magnify what you see.

Is there anything you do to make using technology easier? Let us know in the comments below! If you know anyone who might benefit from these technologies, feel free to share this post with them. And if you want to learn how to order or set up these features, feel ask your technology tutor for help today!

Don’t forget to check back for next week’s post!

Leave a Reply