How to adapt your computer for living with arthritis

Over 9 million people in the UK suffer from arthritis. If you’re one of them, you’ll know that it causes pain and swelling in the joints, most commonly the hands, spine, knees and hips.

Pain in the hands can make it difficult to use a standard keyboard and mouse.

AbilityNet is an expert in assistive technology and can help inform you as to how to adapt your computer, or desk to make it more comfortable to work.

Read our top 5 tips for adapting your computer if you’re living with arthritis.

5 tips to adapt your computer for living with arthritis

1. Mouse-free computing for people living with arthritis

Some people living with arthritis may find it easier to ditch the mouse. It's slower at first, but you can counter this by using keyboard shortcuts. An internet navigator keyboard with pre-programmed buttons – for example, email, save, print – may reduce the number of keystrokes.

Download our factsheet Rheumatoid Arthritis and Computing for more tips on adapting your computer for living with Rheumatoid Arthritis.

2. Keyboard shortcuts for living with arthritis

an older lady's hands folded into her lapIt’s a common misconception that you can’t operate a computer without a mouse.

In fact, you can operate your computer entirely from using the keyboard, and it can often be quicker and more comfortable than using the mouse.

Keyboard shortcuts can be especially helpful for people experiencing joint pain from Osteoarthritis or Rheumatoid Arthritis in their thumbs, hands and wrists.

For instance, you can use keyboard shortcuts to open accessibility options in Windows 10.

  • Windows logo key + 'U' – Open 'Ease of Access Centre'
  • Windows logo key + plus (+) or minus (-) – Zoom in or out using Magnifer
  • Windows logo key + Esc – Exit Magnifier
  • Windows logo key + Enter – Open Narrator

Visit My Computer My Way for more keyboard shortcut tips.

You’ll find keyboard shortcut tips for a variety of devices and operating systems including for Apple OS X, ChromeOS Chromebook, MacOS, MacOS Mojave, and Windows.

My Computer My Way is a free online tool to help you make your computer easier to use.

3. Mouse alternatives for people living with arthritis

Some people living with arthritis may experience sore wrists from using a mouse. For some, a wrist rest can significantly reduce wrist pain.

This is a simple solution that is attached to the mouse pad.

The handshoe mouse is often recommended to support the hand, wrist and thumb preventing gripping and pinching, the arm is supported at a relaxed 25-30 degree angle. The Corsair range of gaming mice (see Corsair M65) also provide a thumb rest if the pain is concentrated in the base of the thumb and less so elsewhere. These are comparatively low cost but are mainstream mice rather than specialist ergonomic mice.

You’ll also find tips for adjusting mouse settings in My Computer My Way.

4. Voice control for people living with arthritis

A picture of Amazon Echo voice speakerHome voice-controlled computing has entered the mainstream, thanks to smart speakers such as Alexa and Google. Using your voice is a great way to give your hands a rest.

You can dictate using your voice in Windows 10, and use Cortana, the digital assistant built-in to Windows 10, to surf the internet, send messages and open apps.

Siri is the digital assistant built into macOS and also lets you use your voice to set reminders, send emails and more. You’ll find Siri in macOS Mojave and can use the built-in text to speech dictation in macOS 10 Sierra.

Speech recognition on Chromebooks enables you to use 'speech-to-text' dictation in programs where you would typically type, such as Google Docs and Gmail.

Specialist voice dictation software is also available, including Dragon Professional and Dragon Naturally Speaking.

Download our factsheet for an overview of how to use voice recognition.

5. Personalised computing support for people living with arthritis

Everyone’s experience of living with arthritis is different, and so you may need 1-2-1 support. AbilityNet has a network of volunteers who offer free computer and technology support. Our volunteers are disclosure checked and can visit you at home or can help you by phone or over the internet.  You can request a home visit by: