Colorful new equipment

a computer with a multicolored keyboard, mouse, and trackball

You may have noticed the AWE computers in the Children’s Department. AWE stands for Alternative Work Environment, which in this case means an early learning environment. Kids don’t need a library card to use these computers; they can sit right down and learn about the Amazing Human Body, enjoy animated stories, explore with Dora and Diego, and more. The keyboards are color coded by letters, numbers, and punctuation, and there are tiny two button mice.

However, many children might not yet have developed the fine motor skills to use a standard mouse, or they may be unable. In particular, some kids have trouble grasping dragging. For that reason, Children’s recently acquired a large trackball with spaced buttons and drag lock functionality, which can be controlled with gross motor skills. The yellow button is left click, the blue button is right click, and the green button is drag lock. Press it once, let go and move the ball. When you’re finished dragging, press it again or left click.

a red trackball with yellow, green, and blue buttonsThe drag lock is particularly useful for assembling the skeleton in My Amazing Human Body or drawing a picture in Tux Paint.

The trackball also has jacks for switches, which are external buttons that perform the same tasks as the built in buttons. Switches can be positioned in a variety of ways and actuated by various parts of the body. We don’t yet have switches, but for more information on switch types, see the Switches page in the Global Assistive Technology Wiki. If you’re already using switches, especially in school, check out Simple Switch Activities.

For more information about assistive tech in general, check out these links:

AbleData: an extensive index of assistive technology products organized by disability and category.

OATS: free and/or open source assistive software for a variety of operating systems. Some projects are current; some are abandoned.

PA Assistive Technology Lending Library

Windows Accessibility

DREAMMS for Kids: a list of assistive technology organizations and education law information.

See also: Autism awareness: cool games and apps and/or Accessible ebooks @ the library.

About Amy

Children's librarian, Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh
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