Is there a joystick that can be used like a mouse to click on letters for typing?

Anonymous November 2, 2013
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I have a disabled, “non-verbal,” wheelchair-bound student in one of my classes. She has a mind that works just as well as the other kids (I can tell by her responses to my questions). She’s just trapped inside a body that won’t follow the directions of her brain. I am trying to find a way for her to communicate with me. She has a power wheelchair that she controls with a joystick. So I was thinking……could I find a joystick that could be plugged into a computer and used to select things on the screen (like a mouse does)? Is there a keyboard or typing program out there that would allow her to move the cursor over the letter she wants, click, and then move on to the next letter and click, and so forth until she has her thought all typed out? If so, what is is? Where can I get it? Where can I get a joystick that would make this possible?
ANY ideas are helpful. Help me help this kid. She’s worth it

  1. Arron W
    November 3, 2013 at 5:59 pm

    Everybody here has given excellent suggestions - but I would like to suggest the Wiimote. GlovePIE is a very simple scripting program, which very highly customisable functions. I used to have a script to control the mouse with the Nunchuck. I had the Z+C buttons on it do different things depending on what combination was pressed. For example, Z could be left click, C could be right click... and holding them both together could decrease the sensitivity of the joystick, to allow more precise movement. This is the main reason I would suggest GlovePIE over the other programs (keep in mind I have not used those, the best thing would be to compare yourself). because it's a scripting environment, you can program whatever device to work however she wants it, it'll just take a bit of effort to do so.

    GlovePIE would work with any controller AFAIK, and if you're in need of help, I could provide example scripts for you. I hope whichever option you choose let's her interact with the world around her, better than she has before.

  2. Dalsan M
    November 3, 2013 at 4:26 am

    There are many different kinds of keyboard-type input devices made especially for those with disabilities. Here is one of several websites that can give you more information about them and where to get them:

    Lucy Keyboard uses light against a special keyboard in order to mimic keystrokes.

    More devices here:

    There are also other ways to allow input, like you suggest as using a joystick, trackball, or track pad, on an on-screen keyboard. This would be a little more difficult, but may be a cheaper alternative since many of the specialty keyboards are rather costly. I just wish there were more funding in the education system to implement these tools for students, and see if it would help some of the students communicate and perform to the best of their ability. Kudos to you for thinking about the benefit of the student as I have personally seen situations like this being ignored, forcing these students to not learn anywhere near what they are capable of.

  3. Oron J
    November 2, 2013 at 1:03 pm

    It's a great idea! I'm sure there's software that will allow you to do this. In fact, both Windows and the Mac have accessibility software built in which allows you to use the keyboard instead of the mouse (arrows to move the mouse, other keys to click etc), so it's just a matter of configuring a joystick to simulate arrows, and I'm sure something like that exists.
    Perhaps your student, if she has some dexterity in her fingers, could use a trackball instead of a joystick, that would improve her control of the screen significantly. Another approach, if she can move her head, is to use Enable Viacam ( which, to quote from their site, "s a mouse replacement software that moves the pointer as you move your head."

    However, the best thing would be to get in touch with accessibility experts. There are TONS of accessibility accessories out there, special mice, keyboards, eye trackers, spelling boards and what not, and what you need is someone who is an expert in what is out there and what would suit someone with particular needs best.

  4. Hovsep A
    November 2, 2013 at 12:55 pm

    Mouse for a Quadriplegic – Kensington Expert Trackball

    JoyToKey (or Joy2Key) enables PC game controllers to emulate a mouse and the keyboard input, so that windows applications and web games can be controlled with your favorite joysticks!

    QuadJoy Mouse Basic Unit

    QuadMouse Configurator

    IntegraMouse Plus