BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Using a computer mouse can be a difficult and
embarrassing task for children and adults with disabilities
affecting fine motor skills.
But a new software application, available soon, promises to ease
the frustration of using a mouse -- and provide greater computer
access-- for people who suffer from cerebral palsy, traumatic brain
injury or other disabilities that make it very difficult to point
PointSmart, developed by Infogrip of Ventura, Calif., with
assistance from the University at Buffalo Rehabilitation
Engineering Research Center on Technology Transfer (T2RERC), helps
stabilize erratic mouse movements by allowing users to adjust the
sensitivity of those movements beyond standard speed and
acceleration adjustments found on most personal computers.
A beta version of PointSmart will be available for consumer
testing in January, and a final version of the product is expected
to be on the market in March.
PointSmart is one of a handful of new products recently
developed, improved or tested by the UB T2RERC, which works with
companies to research, evaluate, transfer and commercialize
assistive devices for persons affected by disabilities. The center
is one unit under the umbrella of UB's Center for Assistive
Technology, which is part of the UB School of Public Health and
"We're a one-of-a-kind research center," says Stephen Bauer,
Ph.D., clinical assistant professor of rehabilitation science and
director of T2RERC. "We're entirely focused on transferring
beneficial technologies and products, like PointSmart, to persons
affected by disabilities and older Americans."
PointSmart features a joystick mode that starts the mouse in one
direction and allows it to continue without continuous control
until the user chooses to change direction or select an object.
PointSmart users also can change the functionality of mouse clicks
and buttons -- switching the left click and right click functions,
For visually impaired users, PointSmart can display very large
and easy-to-read mouse pointers
on the computer screen.
"In schools, PointSmart will allow children with disabilities
that affect fine motor control to effectively access computers that
their classmates use on a daily basis," says Wendy Strobel, T2RERC
project manager. "It will allow all children to learn together on
computers in their classrooms.
"In work environments, people with disabilities that affect fine
motor control will be able to use a mouse without the frustration
of missed targets or misplaced information -- misjudgments that
often affect productivity negatively," she says.
Moreover, Americans who have aged into a disabling condition --
through arthritis, stroke or other malady -- can continue to access
personal computers using PointSmart, Strobel points out.
Other new products developed, improved or tested by T2RERC
* CaptionSync, by Automatic Sync Technologies, an automated
captioning system for the hearing-impaired or learning-disabled
that within 10 minutes can develop captions from any electronic
media file and its transcript.
* For the visually impaired, the PDA Line Magnifier and Text
Isolator, which attaches easily to any personal digital
* The UpStop Wheelchair Braking System, developed with AliMed.
The only automatic braking system for manual wheelchairs, it is
designed to reduce patient falls.
* An Automated Pill Crusher for patients with arthritis or
Alzheimer's disease who have difficulty crushing their
* The Black and Decker Digital Advantage Countertop Oven™,
a combination toaster/convection oven, built with user-friendly
features for the elderly.
Another UB T2RERC collaborative product, the Black & Decker
Lids-Off™ Automatic Jar Opener for people with poor grip
strength, is expected to be a big seller again this holiday season,
says James Leahy, UB T2RERC project administrative officer, who
worked with Black & Decker to commercialize the jar opener in
According Leahy, the UB T2RERC will soon begin to work with
other major consumer products companies, in addition to Black &
Decker, through the center's new Fortune 500 Project.
"We're showing companies how they can broaden their market by
increasing the usability and accessibility features of mainstream
consumer products," Leahy explains. "These companies are very
interested in trans-generational design -- designing products with
usability that spans generations -- because they're very attune to
the fact that baby boomers are aging and will need products made
with features that ensure usability and access as they age."
The UB T2RERC is funded by a five-year $4.75 million grant from
the National Institute on Disability Rehabilitation Research.