Introduction and January Assistive Technology Tip

Introduction and Free Click-n-type On Screen Keyboard and Track IR for Low Budget Hands-Free Assistive Technology

I’m Lon Thornburg, an assistive technology coordinator and trainer from Oregon. I am so excited to be able to share with all of you an AT tip each month. I have a background as an elementary teacher, grades 1 through 8, and then went on to get my masters degree in technology in education and my Oregon administrators endorsement. I serve on the Oregon State Traumatic Brain Injury Team, the Oregon Technology Access Program advisory council and have 12 school districts that I drive around to, to call on students with special needs and AT issues. I have included my blog and websites at the bottom of the article. Thanks for the opportunity to contribute!

Are you looking for hands-free computer access at a low cost or even a free price tag?
I had a question come in on email recently concerning on-screen keyboards for writing access. The question was asking if I knew of an on-screen keyboard that would work for a person with no fine motor and only movement with the head. They asked about scanning possibilities as well as eye gaze. One of the problems was the cost – this would have to be on a shoestring budget.
Here is my answer:
Eye gaze technology is pretty spendy, but the next best thing if you have controlled head movement is the Track IR. Right now, they have one for $129. The Track IR uses a track clip or a reflective dot that can be placed on the bill of a cap, bridge of glasses or even the forehead. A little camera callibrates the computer so the dot makes the cursor/mouse move. When you dwell on a key on an on-screen keyboard, it will press the key and type the letter. The company utilizes the TrackIR more for hands-free gaming than AT. They have the “Smart Nav” that is an upscale computer access solution at about $499. It includes an on-screen keyboard software in the package. The Smart Nav would be the better access application if you can afford it.
The on-screen keyboard I use all the time is the free Click-n-Type from Lake Folks. They have a companion word prediction add-on to download as well. If you want scanning, this keyboard has a setting that can set the speed of the scan. If you aren’t going for the hands-free access, by using a switch interface (see Don Johnston’s pro 5.0 )and a button or appropriate switch, you can select the key you want to type by activating the switch when a set of vertical and horizontal cross hairs come together over the key. The keyboard can be re-sized and floats on top of an open word processing window to type.
With an ensemble like the free Click-n-type, and a Track IR, you have a great starter system to get that hands-free computer access going at a very reasonable cost.

All the best to you,

Lon Thornburg is an assistive technology specialist and professional development trainer who lives in Oregon and serves children in 12 school districts in 7 counties. He hosts the No Limits to Learning Blog and The No Limits 2 Learning Live Talk show on Blog Talk Radio. Look for an AT tip every last Thursday of the month. Find free tips and resources on his website at

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