Assistive technology goes mainstream: switch adapted Kensington Expert trackball

A bit ago I received the new trackball from Turning Point Technology: a switch adapted Kensington Expert. It will be primarily for work use, in conjunction with Edgeless and whichever onscreen keyboard I have available.

I wanted a Kensington primarily because the shape was perfect. It’s a compact square, with the buttons in the corners out of the way of my palm. The wrist rest is optional, so that I can position both the trackball and my hand as I see fit. If I ever do want a wrist rest, I’d prefer something soft, like a Handstands beanbag.

Now that I’m using it, it’s perfect for another reason: the optical tracking. The roll is completely frictionless, smooth and silent. I barely need to move. The motion is effortless but not uncontrolled; I have my mouse settings on top speed, and can still stop on any point. I don’t aim to use the scroll ring much, but it seems to turn easily with slight jar-opening motions.

I wanted switch access for the times that keyboard shortcuts don’t work and dwell clicking isn’t available, including public computers that don’t take flash drives. Also, if there comes a time I can only use scanning, it doubles as a switch interface device. The trackball was adapted by fitting it with a small interface box on a thick cable. The box has four switch jacks, one for each button: left, right, middle, and Back. (It took a minute to figure out which was which.) I don’t have switches for all four jacks yet, but I have an adjustable pressure switch on the left click, on the lightest setting.

To program the buttons for other functions, you can use Kensington’s Trackball Works or, if you need something more involved, AutoHotkey. I would probably use AutoHotkey, but Trackball Works isn’t too bad. In fact, I recommend it if you have tremor and want to be on the safe side, because it allows you to adjust the acceleration and speed, and there’s a “single axis” mode option as well that’s supposed to let you move in a straight line. (Another note on tremor: be careful, there’s no retaining ring.) Trackball Works can NOT be run from a flash drive.

I find it particularly stunning that a device intended for the mainstream market is so much less painful for me than something explicitly marketed for users with disabilities. I borrowed a Roller II while I was waiting for the Kensington, and can’t believe how much it hurt in comparison. I think the major problem was that the Roller is mechanical, which made it less agile and harder to push. The shape forced me to use my fingertips more, so OW. The built in wrist rest was also problematic.

This is why the first item on my Assistive Tech Checklist begins, “Assistive technology itself is not universal.” Much of the problem with finding a good device is that there are so few choices sometimes, and then they’re pretty much the same. Turning Point is a rare company. Read their profile — if that isn’t help from the world, what is?

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2 Responses to Assistive technology goes mainstream: switch adapted Kensington Expert trackball

  1. G F Mueden says:

    Handy this might be helpful: “WordQ+SpeakQ [is a} writing tool for PC that integrates word prediction, spoken feedback, and speech recognition.”

  2. hand2mouth says:

    Thanks for the tip! I don’t know if I could afford it at the moment, but it might be worth checking out. Sounds like it.

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