Occupational therapists often work with clients needing computer or tablet access. There are a number of things to consider. First, there is the physical access of actually controlling the keyboard and mouse. There is the visual aspect of being able to see the display, track the cursor on the screen, and coordination of eye-hand movements between the mouse and the cursor on the display. There is also a cognitive aspect of understanding whatever my application might be, whether it is a software program on the computer or mobile app on a tablet or even a smart phone. Finally, there is the functional context. This is something that is very critical that we, as occupational therapists, can bring to the table. “What is the goal?” Why is the client using a computer or tablet? It is easy to think of the tablet as the goal, but it is not. It is what we are doing functionally with that device. It is very important for us to keep in mind the functional context; what is the goal of us using this technology?
Computer Access Hierarchy
Going through our computer access options, we are going to follow somewhat of hierarchy. There is a written version of this computer access hierarchy that is listed in our resources at the end of this course. In following that hierarchy, we are going to start with standard computer access methods, and that means the standard keyboard. The first question we need ask ourselves is, "Can the client physically access that standard computer keyboard?" If so, great; we are done. If not, we need to look at other options.
Our first step is to look at the accessibility features within the computer operating system. Every computer has an operating system. PC computers use Windows operating system. Those continue to change. We are at Windows 8 right now. Apple or Mac computers use IOS operating system. Each of these operating systems has a variety of accessibility settings. These settings not only vary from operating system to operating system, from Windows to IOS, but also vary with the version. For example, the accessibility settings in Windows 7 might be different than those in Windows 8.