Parkinson's and Computing

Parkinson's Awareness Week 2014As it is Parkinson's Awareness Week in April we thought we would write a blog to show people who have the condition how easy it is to use their computer.

What is Parkinson’s?

Parkinson's is a degenerative condition which affects the central nervous system. It causes tremors and difficulty with movement. Speech may also be affected. The condition is caused by lack of a chemical called dopamine. Famous people with the condition include retired boxer Muhammed Ali.

How many people in the UK have the condition?

According to Parkinson’s UK there are 127,000 people with the condition in the UK

How can computers help someone with Parkinson's?

These commonly asked question about having Parkinson’s illustrate some of the many ways of using a computer effectively

1. My hands shake and I can’t use the standard keyboard. What can I do?

If you have the condition you might want to use a different keyboard (perhaps also using a keyguard which is a piece of plastic which fits over the top of the keyboard making it easier to hit the right key.) You may even want to change the way the keyboard reacts when you hit a key, such as slowing it down.

Every computer, smartphone or tablet includes options for adapting the way the keyboard works. AbilityNet’s award-winning My Computer My Way provides information about all the main computer and smartphone systems. We also have a Factsheet about alternatives to keyboards and a mouse and there are lots of different keyboards to choose from.

2. I find it hard to use the mouse. Are there any other pointing devices out there?

If you’re having issues with the mouse then there are lots of different pointing devices (such as rollerballs) to choose from. It’s a really good idea to try them out before you buy; additionally it is worth considering if you might want to install some software that does automatic clicking. Dwell Clicker 2 is a very effective piece of software.

3. Can I talk to my computer?

If your voice is clear then we’d advise trying out voice recognition. It’s built into all new computers that run Windows. For more details have a look at our easy to understand step by step instructions on My Computer My Computer. We’ve also written an overview of how voice recognition can help you.

4. My speech is good sometimes but gets worse throughout the day. People find it hard to understand me. What can I do?

If your speech is affected there are a number of packages which you can install on a smartphone or tablet computer. However, if you’ve got issues with tremors then using a smartphone may be difficult for you to use. Switch access is possible on a Mac or Windows tablet. The switches can be wireless too for easier use. Search for more information about switches on our website.

Case study

Kenny called us as his partner John was having difficulties researching information on his Android tablet. Our A&I team talked to him about the different ways that John can access his tablet, using Google’s voice control and we went on to tell him about a piece of software called Evi which you can ask questions with your voice and it will go away and find the answer.

How can we help?

AbilityNet provides a range of free services to help disabled people and older people.

Call our free Helpline. Our friendly, knowledgeable staff will discuss any kind of computer problem and do their best to come up with a solution. We’re open Monday to Friday from 9am to 5pm on 0800 269 545.

Arrange a home visit. We have a network of AbilityNet ITCanHelp volunteers who can help if you have technical issues with your computer systems. They can come to your home, or help you over the phone.

We have a range of factsheets which talk in detail about technology that might help you, which can be downloaded for free. You may find our factsheets talking about voice recognition and keyboard alternatives useful.

My Computer My Way. A list of free hints and tips that you can use to make your time on the computer that bit easier.