Life with MS

Frustration Busters for the Computer

By MSF Staff
Trying to click inside a tiny cell within an Excel spreadsheet when your hand and arm are shaking uncontrollably is something like trying to scoop peas onto your fork during heavy turbulence in a small aircraft. That’s just one of the frustrations that some people with MS experience at the computer. As MS affects motor skills and dexterity, using the keyboard can be difficult, and for some, it can even be painful.
The good news is that there are assistive technologies that make navigating software easier. For example, the Ribbon User Interface in MS Word can be very challenging for those who have little to no coordination in their fingers. To alleviate this problem, Windows offers a feature called Sticky Keys. When enabled, you are able to press one key at a time, instead of having to hold down two or more keys at the same time. This can be helpful if you have an easier time controlling one hand at a time, instead of both hands simultaneously. So, instead of having to press ALT+TAB to bring up a list of active windows, you can invoke Sticky Keys, and then press ALT, and then TAB.
Here are some other useful tips that apply to Microsoft Office 2010 and 2007 Office System. (A link at the end of the article leads to a website that provides accessibility tips for other systems.)  
• If you find that you inadvertently press keys more than once, you can activate Bounce Keys to ignore keys that are pressed more than once, unless a specified time has passed between each key stroke.
• Instead of using a mouse, you might find it easier using a touch screen. This device enables you to use your fingers to make a selection.
• If you are unable to use a keyboard, use a head- or eye-pointing device to direct a low-level laser beam toward a special type of keyboard.
• There are even on-screen keyboards that you can use with a joystick or pointing device.
• If your speech is not impaired, you could use speech recognition software. Simply speak the commands that you want your computer to perform. For example, you can instruct the computer to start Word, address a new email message to a specific person, or even shut down the system. Some speech recognition products enable you to control appliances in your home or office, as well as your computer. 
Tools to cope with cognitive dysfunction 
MS can often cause cognitive dysfunctions and learning impairments that make it challenging to work in Word, schedule appointments in Outlook, or work in Excel spreadsheets. There are tools you can use to help you stay focused.
In Word, you can add auto-correct entries for words that you frequently misspell. These auto-correct entries will also apply to e-mail message that you compose in Outlook.
If you do better hearing words rather than reading them, have Narrator read the words back to you.
To start Narrator:
1. Press WIN KEY+U.
2. Press ALT+N.
To stop Narrator:
1. Press ALT+TAB, until the Microsoft Narrator window is selected.
2. Press ALT+X.
3. Confirm your decision to close Narrator by pressing Y for Yes.
Screen review utilities speak on-screen text and highlight the words as they are spoken. By converting the text to a computer voice, it often helps some people who have language impairments by offering a visual aid along with an audio stimulus. 
To learn more about how to implement these features, and to learn more about other assistive technology go to:
(Last reviewed 5/2012)