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Speech recognition systems, also called voice recognition programs, allow people to give commands and enter data using their voices rather than a mouse or keyboard. Voice recognition systems use a microphone attached to the computer which can be used to create text documents such as letters or e-mail messages, browse the Internet and navigate among applications and menus by voice. Speech recognition systems are also used by people with language and learning disabilities who have difficulty typing or reading text.

On-screen keyboard programs provide an image of a standard or modified keyboard on the computer screen. The user selects the keys with a mouse, touch screen, trackball, joystick, switch or electronic pointing device. On-screen keyboards often have a scanning option. When a desired key is high-lighted, an individual with a mobility impairment is able to select it by using a switch positioned near a body part that is under his or her voluntary control.

Keyboard filters include typing aids such as word prediction utilities and add-on spelling checkers. These products reduce the required number of keystrokes. Keyboard filters enable users to quickly access the letters they need and to avoid inadvertently selecting keys they don't want. Keyboard filters—especially word prediction and spelling checkers—are also used by people with language and learning impairments.

Touch screens are devices placed on the computer monitor (or built into it) that allow direct selection or activation of the computer by touching the screen. These devices can benefit some individuals with mobility impairments because they present a more accessible target. It is often easier for individuals to select an option directly rather than through a mouse movement or keyboard, because that movement might require greater fine motor skills than simply touching the screen to make a selection. Other people with mobility impairments might make their selections with assistive technology such as mouth sticks. Touch screens are also used by people with language and learning impairments who find it an easier, more direct and intuitive process than making a selection using a mouse or keyboard.

Alternative input devices allow individuals to control their computers through means other than a standard keyboard or pointing device. Examples include:

  • Alternative keyboards—those with larger- or smaller-than-standard keys or keyboards, alternative key configurations and keyboards for use with one hand.
  • Electronic pointing devices—used to control the cursor on the screen using ultrasound, an infrared beam, eye movements, nerve signals or brain waves.
  • Sip-and-puff systems—activated by the user's breath.
  • Wands and sticks—used to strike keys on the keyboard (usually worn on the head, held in the mouth or strapped to the chin).
  • Joysticks—manipulated by hand, feet, chin, etc. and used to control the cursor on screen.
  • Trackballs—movable balls on top of a base that can be used to move the cursor on screen.

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