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AT To Make Reading and Writing Easier for Individuals with Rheumatoid Arthritis

Dr. Elsa M. Orellano, Ph.D., OTR/L, ATP of Puerto Rico’s AT Program (PRATP) compiled the following Assistive Technology resources and strategies to help increase independence and minimize the joint stress and degeneration associated with writing and reading activities for individuals with rheumatoid arthritis.

1. Writing
Angular Surfaces provide arm and forearm support while writing and help to keep a proper head and neck position. Pencil grips made of rubber or plastic provide a stable grip, increase writing coordination and precision, achieve a better pencil grip posture, and decrease the strength needed to manipulate writing tools. Foam, such as air conditioning pipe insulation or Styrofoam spheres, is effective for providing a better grip, and works better than wrapping a pencil with tape. On the market these items are available in different forms, so the student should have the opportunity to experiment with different types of pencil grips.

Carbon Paper allows the student to have a copy of the notes taken by other students in his or her class. This strategy helps compensate for writing difficulties.

Voice Recorders compensate for writing challenges, preventing joint stress on the hands. They can be used to record classes, document information, or task instructions. After class, the student can copy the recorded information without time pressure and with needed breaks to avoid hand pain and fatigue.
Portable Word Processor: Battery-based portable keyboards working as notepads. It has a limited information storage capability. The stored information can be downloaded onto a computer or it can be printed directly to a printer. Light weight and compact, these portable devices can substitute for the use of pencil and paper.

2. Computer Use
Abbreviation Text Expander Software: Type an abbreviation or series of abbreviations and the software expands it to the full word, phrase or sentence. Its constant use improves keyboard efficiency and helps to decrease the joint stress related to the constant use of a keyboard.

Word Prediction Software can be used with any application, but is commonly used with word processors. Type the first letters of a word and the software provides suggestions for your most frequently used words to complete it. The user then selects the desired word by its corresponding number or use of a function key. Word prediction software offers a menu with words already written, instead of words based on the first letters. The programs are useful to those who can type with precision the first letters of a word, can pay attention to two stimuli at the same time, and frequently write long words. Scientific evidence indicates that these programs significantly decrease repetitions while writing at the computer. They also have the potential to decrease joint stress, secondary to excessive repetitions using a keyboard.

Voice Recognition Software help users control some or all of a computer’s functions by voice command alone. Using the voice, the user can dictate documents or execute commands usually performed through the mouse or keyboard. To achieve efficient voice recognition, the user should receive training. Users need to supply a consistent pronunciation and be in a minimum noise location. These programs help to minimize the joint stress caused by the repetitive keyboard use.

Dwell Clicking Software automatically performs mouse click operations without physically putting pressure on the mouse buttons. This is useful for those who can use a mouse, trackball or any mouse alternative but get tired with continuous mouse clicks. This software helps to minimize fatigue caused by a continue use of a keyboard.

Touch pads are a mouse alternative that allow for mouse movements by dragging a fingertip across the pad’s surface. A quick tap is the same as a mouse click or double tap acts as a double click. These actions require minimum arm and finger movements, and eliminate extensive holding of a regular mouse. It also prevents static work of the arm and minimizes joint stress due to excessive use of a standard mouse.

Trackballs are a mouse alternative that allow for mouse movement by rotating a sphere with the fingers or hand. These actions require minimum arm and finger movements, and eliminate extensive holding of a regular mouse. They also prevent static work of the arm and minimize joint stress due to excessive use of a standard mouse.

2. Reading

Book and Document Holders prevent extensive holding of books and minimize muscles, tendons, and joint stress. An angular position of the book facilitates a proper neck and head posture. It also facilitates visual access to the material.

For more information and links to vendors, see: AT Progam News Blog

 

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