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14 great computing aids for the disabled

Keyboards controlled by eye, PCs operated by light

Getting work done on a computer is easily within reach of the blind and physically disabled thanks to a number of new and updated tools. We've rounded up the 14 best gadgets to improve computing for the disabled.

Light-operated computing: Lomak

A different kind of keyboard and mouse replacement, the Lomak is considered so innovative that it's earned a spot in New York's Museum of Modern Art.

Art with a purpose, Lomak stands for 'light operated mouse and keyboard', and for those without the use of their hands, it can mean freedom to compute on their own.

The system uses a head-mounted device that shoots a laser beam to a keyboard replacement that has 105 photo-sensitive spots arranged in circles that correspond to letters and numbers, punctuation and mouse movements.

When the user aims the beam at what she wants and moves the beam to the Confirm button at each circle's centre, Lomak carries out the command. (There's also an LED hand pointer for those with limited hand movement.)

Not only does Lomak work with Macs and Windows machines, but unlike other keyboard replacements, it doesn't require calibration or any extra software.

Made by New Zealand-based Opdo, a complete Lomak setup costs $2,500 (£1,657).

Best foot forward: NoHands Mouse

Mouse substitutes that use foot pedals are nothing new for carpal tunnel syndrome sufferers or others looking to control a computer with their feet.

However, Hunter Digital's NoHands Mouse takes this technology to new heights by redesigning it with the user's feet in mind.

Unlike the usual blocky rectangular pedals that lack the sensitivity required to precisely move the pointer, NoHands' pedals are oval-shaped with a thin foot platform that senses 360 degrees of movement and varying amounts of pressure.

One pedal handles the pointer's movement, while the other does the clicking. Unlike older designs where the two pedals are mounted on a board, NoHands pedals can be independently set up for the comfort and efficiency of the user.

Priced at $350 (£232), NoHands Mouse works with Windows 95/XP/Vista, Mac OS X and Linux.

The key to computing: BigKeys LX keyboard

Sometimes all it takes is a little thoughtful redesign to help adapt a product for someone with poor eyesight or hand-eye coordination.

The BigKeys LX from Greystone Digital is a novel take on the standard keyboard, with large keys and labels.

The BigKeys LX replaces a standard keyboard for use with either Windows or Mac computers; no extra software is required.

The keyboard has most of the keys we're used to, but at 1in square, they're four times the size of traditional keys, making them easy to locate and press.

Note, however, that it has a somewhat odd layout, with many special-character keys off to the right, and the large key spacing requires some getting used to.

The keyboard costs $159 (£105) and comes with a five-year warranty. Both the traditional QWERTY and ABC formats are available.

The keyboard can be ordered with white, black, yellow or multicoloured keys for easy recognition.

NEXT PAGE: ZoomText magnifier/reader

  1. From keyboards controlled by the eye to light-operated PCs
  2. Sip and puff input systems
  3. Light-operated PCs
  4. ZoomText magnifier/reader
  5. Braille on the go

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