Unfortunately, public computers are not great (yet) at being accessible to those with physical disabilities. Most often, the barrier is money. Open source software may eventually change some of that, but for now a lot of network folks still need to be convinced that these programs are even worth installing.Until then, you have at least one option — how well it works will depend on your other hardware or software needs and whether you can bring them with you also. If you’re in a public place like a library that only gives you a set amount of time on a machine, and you need word completion or shorthand in order to work efficiently, I suggest downloading the portable version of Open Office from Portable Apps. Portable Apps will install programs like Open Office onto any flash drive you have, provided you have enough space — your flash drive doesn’t have to be U3. The catch is that once Open Office is on the flash drive, you will have to program your shorthand into the AutoCorrect replacement table again, the instructions for which are here. Once you have done that, however, you can load your flash drive into any public computer, run the program, and type with both abbreviation expansion and word completion enabled.
If for some reason you cannot use a flash drive, there is another more roundabout solution. If the public computer is running Microsoft Word, you will be out of luck if you want word completion, but your shorthand might still be of some good to you. When you are typing, simply use your shorthand as you normally would. It will not expand — it will be entered as it is. Before your time on the computer is up, save the document (in 97/XP/2003 format) and e-mail it to yourself. When you get home, open the attachment in Writer. Then, go to the Format menu and look under AutoFormat. If “while typing” is checked, uncheck it. Then, go under AutoFormat again and click Apply. Your shorthand should expand. If it doesn’t, you might have to go under Tools — AutoCorrect Options– Options and make sure the box for “use replacement table” is checked for M (modifying existing text). Also note that you will only run the replacement once. After you’re done, you can go back to AutoFormat and check “while typing” again, and go into the AutoCorrect replacement table and check T (while typing).
Portable Apps has Firefox also, so you can have Mouseless Browsing or whatever add-ons already set up. It also offers an onscreen keyboard. Unfortunately, it’s only the Windows “lite” version, which most public PCs have already. I wish they’d make a portable Click-N-Type.