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Educational implications

Within a mainstream educational setting the incidence of moderate to severe motor impairment is statistically small so many mainstream teachers would not teach learners with significant motor impairment. However, dyspraxia is much more common and simple reasonable adjustments can be made if staff and learners know how.

A key difficulty with motor impairment is the impact on time taken to complete tasks. Even with relatively mild motor impairment there can be a significant time penalty in producing written resources as a result of:

  • Poor dexterity leading to slower manipulation of resources.
  • Slower completion of written work.
  • Increased likelihood of making errors (e.g. hitting the wrong keys)
  • Increased time taken in correcting errors.

Where motor impairments are more severe, assistive technologies may provide a key outlet for creativity, communication and interaction. Technologies as different as voice recognition, switch software, headpointers and eyetrackers can give independence to severely disabled learners.

Where mainstream teaching and assessment methods are more creative and imaginative, motor impairment can be significantly less disabling - for example learners might create a 2000 word audio clip in a fraction of the time they would take to create a 2000 word written assignment. Similarly interactive quizzes, video clips or digital images might prove less of a barrier than traditional book and paper resources with traditional written assessments.

The choice of technology to use is only partly determined by efficiency of use. The learner’s self image is also important and learners may opt to use a solution that is less effective if they feel it makes them stand out less. It is therefore important to let learners trial a range of technologies.

The accessibility options built into the Microsoft ® Windows operating system will meet the needs of many learners with motor impairments. The options include changing the mouse speed and sensitivity, changing keyboard sensitivity, replacing mouse movements with keystrokes, creating personalised keyboard shortcuts, creating macros to simplify tasks, using hand writing recognition, using speech recognition and replacing the physical keyboard with an onscreen keyboard. For more information on setting the Windows Accessibility settings see the Techdis staff pack ‘Benevolent Bill - what Microsoft ® does for accessibility’ or AbilityNet’s ‘My Computer My Way’. AbilityNet also offer a paid for remote assessment service where they can set up a learner’s PC for optimum settings - for details on these services see the AbilityNet website.

When designing websites and e-learning materials it is important to ensure resources do not depend on mouse movements or fine motor control.

Further information and guidance