I started getting carpal tunnel syndrome about 1995, first a stiffness then a soreness in the wrists, particularly the right wrist, my mouse hand. After about five years, it was pretty painful, so I started doing different things to cope. I tried split keyboards, different sitting positions, touchpads, transcription services; and I used early voice recognition software called “discrete speech,” which was really pretty lame because you had to… say… each… word… separately.
Some of these tips and tricks I still used today: I have a standup computer terminal (I stand when I am at the computer, with my hands straight down, because it is more comfortable for me); I still wear comfortable wrist braces, for the few times that my hands touch the keyboard; I wear homemade nighttime splints to keep my wrists relatively straight when I sleep (made from two balsa wood boards and a couple of old socks—very low tech); I stretch and workout often—swimming is excellent, for fluidity; occasional B-6 helps.
There are three mice on my computer: a touchpad (turned sideways), a one-button mouse used for clicking-only (since I stand, it is directly in front of me, so that I just lean-in to click it—a “belly clicker”), and the most important one–a touchless camera mouse, the SmartNAV. With this, I navigate virtually hands-free. One version of SmartNAV has a “voice clicking” feature, very helpful.
Microsoft Office Word 2003 has a terrific built-in voice recognition tool called “Speech.” It allows both dictation and menu control inside and outside of Word applications. I occasionally use IBM ViaVoice, and while it is still on my computer and more accurate at speech recognition, Microsoft “Speech” is perfectly good for daily use. Most people don’t even know that it’s on their computer.
I also use the Microsoft Windows On-Screen Keyboard for “belly clicking” certain keyboard combinations and entering key-specific data. There’s also a simple software tool called a “dwell clicker,” which is available with SmartNAV or several places online.
All the software tools and tricks that I use are readily available, and inexpensive. Of course, using them all in combination takes some practice and getting used to. Kinda like playing a video game.
One thing people always ask me is, “Does all of this make you a faster typist?” and I say, “Not really, but I can work as fast as you, pain-free. And that’s all that really matters to me.”
This ergonomic mouse is a wonderful teaching tool for students with disabilities. Many of my students are wheelchair-bound and unable to use their hands. When used with an on-screen keyboard and dwell clicker, it helps them to increase their productivity, which makes them feel successful, independent. It’s a terrific mouse alternative. It is hands free: the student simply moves his head to control the cursor. The software is easy to install. Just put in the disk and follow the directions on screen. The looks on my kids faces say more than words can.
Certified Special Education Teacher