Assistive Technology Resources
The links and resources on this page can serve as a starting point for learning about some assistive technology options available to people with ALS.
For more information about any of these topics, please contact our Assistive Technology Services Coordinator at 503-238-5559 ext 104 or email AAC@alsa-or.org.
Computer Access Resources
An onscreen keyboard allows you to type on a computer using a mouse or other pointing device instead of the physical keyboard. Many onscreen keyboards include a Dwell or AutoClick feature, allowing you to select letters without clicking the mouse button.
Windows 8 : Includes an excellent onscreen keyboard with word prediction. In Apps → Windows Ease of Access.
Windows 7: The latest version of Windows includes an excellent onscreen keyboard with word prediction. You can access it from the Start Menu under All Programs → Accessories → Ease of Access.
Windows XP or Vista: Older versions of Windows include an onscreen keyboard, but it is not very appropriate for frequent users. A nice, free alternative is Click-N-Type, available at cnt.lakefolks.com.
Mac OS X: Click here for instructions on how to activate the onscreen keyboard in Mac OS X.
Free Head Control Software
Head control can be an effective way for PALS with hand impairment to control a computer when they can no longer use a mouse. Camera Mouse is a free program that allows you to try out head control on your own computer (you must have a Windows-based computer with a webcam). If you think head control might work for you, please contact Kendra McInturf at The ALS Association to ask about specialized equipment that is much more effective and user-friendly than this free program. Visit www.cameramouse.org for more information.
Speech recognition software allows you to control a computer and input text using only your voice. Windows Vista and Windows 7 both have built-in speech recognition capability - all you need is a microphone. Speech recognition software is available for Mac OS and Windows XP.
Windows 8 : Click here for instructions on activating built-in speech recognition in Windows 8.
Windows 7: Click here for instructions on activating built-in speech recognition in Windows 7.
Windows Vista: Click here for instructions on activating built-in speech recognition in Windows Vista.
Windows XP: Click here to learn about Dragon NaturallySpeaking software for Windows.
Mac: Click here to learn about Dragon Dictate software for Mac. Mac OS X does include a very basic speech recognition feature that allows you to navigate menus and control applications, but cannot be used for dictating text.
Accessibility Settings in Windows or Mac OS
Your computer’s operating system already includes many features that may make your computer easier to use. You can slow down the mouse pointer, filter out unintentional keystrokes, increase font sizes, rearrange your mouse buttons, and much, much more. The pages below give an overview of some of these features.
Windows 8: Click here for information about accessibility features in Windows 8.
Windows 7: Click here for information about accessibility features in Windows 7.
Windows Vista: Click here for information about accessibility features in Windows Vista.
Windows XP: Click here for information about accessibility features in Windows XP.
Mac OS X: Click here for information about accessibility features in Mac OS X.
refers to assistive technology that enables people with significant
disabilities to independently access features of their environment (operate
TV/entertainment systems, doors, blinds, lights, climate control, etc.) Environmental
Telephone Access Resources
Adapted Telephone Equipment
Many people with ALS have difficulty using a traditional telephone due to speech or motor impairments. There is a wide variety of adapted telephone equipment available, including remote-control speakerphones, voice-amplifying phones, and TTY devices that allow the user to type a message to a relay operator. PALS can often obtain this equipment at little or no cost through state telephone access programs - please see the links below or contact Kendra McInturf for more information.
Oregon Telecommunication Devices Access Program (TDAP): Click here for information about TDAP, which provides adapted telephone equipment at no charge to Oregonians with speech, hearing, or physical disabilities.
Washington Telephone Equipment Distribution (TED) Program: Click here for information about TED, which provides adapted telephone equipment to Washington residents with qualifying disabilities, with fees on a sliding scale.
Telephone Relay Service
Relay service allows people with speech (or hearing) impairments to make phone calls independently. Calls are placed through a relay operator, who relays your typed or spoken message to the person you are calling. There are several types of relay service that can benefit people with ALS, depending on the user’s specific needs and abilities:
Hearing Carry Over (HCO) Relay: During a HCO call, you would use a special teletypewriter (TTY) device to type messages to the relay operator, who would then read them aloud to the person you are calling. Using a phone handset attached to the TTY, you would hear the other person’s responses directly. TTY devices are available through the Oregon TDAP and Washington TED Programs (see above).
Speech-to-Speech (STS) Relay: STS Relay can be used by people with mild or moderate speech impairments, as well as those using voice output from a communication device. Calls are placed through a specially-trained operator, who can re-voice what you say if the other person has trouble understanding you. No special equipment is required to use STS Relay.
Instant Message (IM) or Internet Protocol (IP) Relay: With these services, you can use AOL Instant Messenger or a relay calling website to contact a relay operator. The operator would read your typed messages aloud to the person you are calling, and then type the other person’s responses back to you. IM and IP relay can be used on computers and smartphones - all you need is an internet connection.
Relay Service Resources:
Other Assistive Technology Resources
Caregiver Call Systems
Many people with ALS can benefit from a system to call or alert caregivers when they are in different rooms. Options include wireless doorbells, personal pagers, and call alarms, with or without switch adaptation. Click here to download an ALSA information sheet on caregiver call systems.
Emergency Call Systems
PALS who spend time at home alone are encouraged to obtain an emergency alert system such as LifeLine or myHalo. When activated (either by the push of a button or by an automatic fall-detection feature), these systems dial an operator who can either send emergency services to your home or call a family member, friend, or neighbor from a list of numbers you provide.
Phillips LifeLine: http://philips.lifelinesystems.com (requires land line phone)
myHalo: www.halomonitoring.com (requires land line phone or broadband internet connection)
eBooks and eBook Readers
Many people with ALS experience changes in their hands and arms that can make it difficult to hold a book or turn pages. However, that doesn’t mean that you can’t still enjoy a great book. Click here to download an ALSA information sheet on eBooks and eBook readers.