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Ask Max: What are some input device options for someone with Parkinsons tremors?

Asked on 10/02/2009:

Hi Jacob,

I have some issues mechanically with typing and I have been put off by the iMac keyboards; I use an ergonomic Adesso on my G4 but it is not presently as useful as a standard Dell keyboard I have had the occasion to use. I need the least spring-loaded pressure that exists in a keyboard, but also I wanted to know if I should punt up to an iMac and install Dragonspeak using Parallels?

Wouldn't the iMac's Intel processor allow just about any keyboard? Is there a best type of mouse for persons with the tremors of Parkinsons? Failing that, can the cursor be voice-activated directionally?





Well you have many input device options with a Mac. Most USB keyboards will work with a Mac, in fact I have yet to find one that does not. So you should buy they keyboard that works well for you. If the Dell functions perfectly, I would recommend getting two of those. I am not kidding about getting two. Over the years I have seen how fast a good keyboard design is replaced. If you find something that works, just as you want it to, get its replacement now. Otherwise you will send your evenings trolling eBay looking for a exact replacement after the first one dies.

If you do not want to hassle with running Parallels, consider MacSpeech. It is built on the Dragon NaturallySpeaking speech recognition engine.

I have yet to see a good mouse solution that is voice activated. Also, most mice or joysticks are difficult to use during hand tremors. Luckily the Mac OS comes with a feature in the Universal Access settings that could help. Under the Mouse & Trackpad tab is the ability to turn on the "Mouse Keys" feature. This turns the numeric ten-key into a mouse controller. There are sensitivity and speed settings that you can set to your specific needs. It works fairly well and gives you more precise movement than what you get from a standard input device.

- Jacob

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