Even before the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act, the landscape was changing for writers with disabilities. Innovations were being developed to assist writers to continue to make valuable contributions in the workplace and society through tools and adaptations. The need for such equipment has never been more valuable than today as veterans attempt to re-enter the workforce after serving in conflicts all over the world. Regardless of the writer’s impairment, a vast number of tools and devices exist that can help. Here are six such examples:
Voice Recognition Software – askjan.org asserts that individuals with certain physical and motor disabilities are often unable to use standard computer keyboards and could benefit dramatically from voice recognition software. There are numerous programs available such as Dragon Naturally Speaking software that “…enables users to fill out forms, create and edit documents, reports, spreadsheets, and e-mail-all by voice”. Versions exist for PC and Apple computers.
One-Handed Keyboard Software – As the name implies, this type of software re-configures the standard layout of the keyboard and maximizes it specifically for one-handed use by making the keys functional for multiple letters and characters.
On-screen Keyboards or Keyboard Emulators – This type of device displays a keyboard on the computer screen that individuals can use to type with using various alternative input devices or AID. These allow manipulation using a user’s individual body parts which can include the person’s head, eyes, feet, even their mouth. There are also various switches similar to that used by renowned physicist and author Stephen Hawking which are sensitive enough to control an entire keyboard by continually pressing a button with something as small as a check muscle.
Word Completion/Prediction Software – These types of program benefit individuals with various repetitive motion conditions like Carpal Tunnel Syndrome or certain neurological conditions like Neuropathy by suggesting a list of potential words that continually changes as the user types. This allows tasks to be completed using fewer keystrokes. This software is already commonly seen in many devices including smartphones.
Screen Reading Software – As the name implies, this type of software program enables the computer to analyze on-screen text and “read” it aloud using an artificial voice generated by a speech synthesizer. These programs may be installed on any computer and are especially helpful for users with visual impairments.
Low Vision Enhancement Products – Certain types of these portable devices are oftentimes placed over ordinary glasses to provide various levels of magnification and aid in glare reduction. Products of this type can also serve as electronic magnification readers for text. While not intended to restore normal vision, low vision enhancement products enable the user to process more text with greater speed, accuracy, and clarity.
Regardless of the cause, individuals with disabilities continue make important contributions that are changing attitudes in both the workplace and society. These six items and many others are currently available to help writers put their visions into words.
Editor’s note: According to the U.S. Department of Labor, people with disabilities make of 20.7% of United States labor force. Most including this list of authors, have learned to adapt with the help of the tools Jim mentions. If you’re a disabled writer, we encourage you to keep sharing your gifts with the world!