First and foremost, we must find out what the user needs or wants to do on the computer. Work with the user to identify simple
tasks, and try to specifically think of things that can be easily broken down into keyboard and mouse actions.
Good examples of actions include:
- Moving and clicking the mouse to navigate their computer.
- Using WASD to move a character around in a video game.
- Using the arrow keys to move the cursor around in a document, or to play simple games.
- Opening and closing programs.
- Pressing a combination of keys to launch a more complex script or system function.
This step can be a little challenging, but you should try to break down ideas into very simple keyboard and mouse actions. For your own understanding, try writing down all the actions that you take to do common tasks like check your e-mail or play music on your computer. What kinds of things do you do with your keyboard and mouse that your user is not able to do? Can you figure out how to accomplish the same tasks (or parts of the tasks) with just the MaKey MaKey?
If you have some suggestions for things that people can do, please feel free to leave a comment on this step!
A very common task that people with disabilities may use computers for is communication. While the MaKey MaKey is a relatively specific, general-purpose device, it may be very useful as a way to trigger sounds on a computer so that a user can communicate more easily.
Here are a few programs I've found that let you assign audio files to any keyboard key you want, so you can use the MaKey MaKey to directly trigger sounds:
- Soundplant (free if using WAV files, $35-$50 to use MP3 files) - very impressive and cheap software that let's you easily assign sounds to keyboard keys. Interface can be enlarged easily, and all activity is indicated with visual clues. Highly recommended piece of software.
- JBuzzer (free) - a bit on the ugly side, but very simple interface. Allows you to assign any kind of audio file to any key on the keyboard. Worth trying out.
- BackToBasics (free to try, $20 to actually use audio files) - very tiny interface, but similar to Soundplant
Again, if you can think of good applications for the MaKey MaKey, or know of other programs that can be used for computer access or assistive tech applications, please leave a comment on this step and let me know!
Games are a very rewarding use for assistive technology, as most of the time users with physical disabilities are forced to use special proprietary software that tends to be incompatible with modern games. Sometimes a user already has the tools the need to perform practical activities on their computer, but lack the ability to engage in activities purely for the fun of it (i.e. gaming).
Here are some gaming-related ideas you can try out:
- Most 2D platformer games are great because they usually only require movement keys (either WASD or arrow keys) and one or two other buttons (like Space or Left click). Try:
- More complex games like first-person shooters or adventure games generally require the simultaneous use of both movement keys and mouse movement, but otherwise just use mouse clicks and maybe a couple keyboard keys to play. Try teaming up with the user! You move the character around, and the user shoots!
- Check out what other users have done on the MaKey MaKey website.
For some actions, using only the functions that the MaKey MaKey provides can be a bit cumbersome. Luckily, there are several programs out there that let you trigger complex scripts (sometimes called "macros") using any key or key combination you want.
For example, you can use the F and G keys to turn your system volume up or down, or use the space bar to zoom in/out (press once for in, twice for out).
Here are some programs to check out:
- AutoHotKey (free, Windows only) - extremely fast and powerful desktop automation program. Tons of usefulscripts are available, so you don't have to do any programming.
- Launchy (free, all platforms) - keystroke launcher that let's you easily find and open any program, file or folder on your computer. Even allows you to do complex things like launching bookmarks and doing simple calculations.
- Automator (Mac only) - an automation program for Mac. I don't have any experience with it personally, but you may want to check it out.
The Windows and Mac operating systems include a lot of really helpful accessibility tools that you may want to take a look at. They will allow you to do quite a few cool things on your computer without any special software, like text-to-speech, bring up an on-screen keyboard, open up a screen magnifier and much more.
Here are some resources you can use to learn more about your operating system's accessibility tools:
- Windows accessibility tools for Windows 7 and Windows XP.
- Mac OSX accessibility tools.