What Is an Electronic Pointing Device, How Is It Used, and Why?

Published October 23, 2020

There are many adaptive technologies on the market today that make readily available devices such as a keyboard or a mouse compatible to any person, allowing them the freedom to use all the resources of a computer. While it is helpful to recognize the specific needs of an individual, it is more important to focus on the task to be completed and how that person’s abilities, assisted with adaptive technology, can be used to accomplish the goal or task.

The needs or desires for successfully using a computer varies by the individual. Specific individual accommodations can be explored that provide access to software or to a specific device.

Access to the computer

An input device allows a user to interact with a computer by converting fine human motor skill responses, performed on an input device, into signals a computer processes. Along those lines, and more specifically now, a pointing device is a type of input device that allows a user to interact with a computer by moving a cursor on a monitor to select icons and trigger desired actions.

The de facto pointing device for desktop computers is a mouse, which was invented by Douglas England in 1967.

Accessibility input devices today feature a multitude of computer components that are helping people be more connected, more entertained, and more independent. Assistive technologies allow all users of today’s amazing and fascinating technologies to take full advantage of information, education, entertainment, many classroom resources, and everyday one-on-one communication with others.

Selecting electronic pointing device products

It is essential to find products that are compatible with the computer operating system and programs on the computer being used. Alternative input devices such as electronic pointing devices will allow individuals to control their computers through means other than a standard keyboard or standard pointing device. More specifically, electronic pointing devices are used to control the cursor on the screen without the use of hands. Devices used include ultrasound, infrared beams, cameras, eye movements, nerve signals, or brain waves, and when you get into a deep dive on this topic, they have so many modifications it’s almost impossible to keep up with them.

Eye tracking technology

Eye tracking technology enables individuals who are severely paralyzed or suffer from repetitive strain injury or carpal tunnel to control their computer hands-free using their eye movements. Eye tools bar allows users to execute mouse functions including left & right click, double click, drag, and zoom.

Speech input

Speech input is an option for speaking individuals with disabilities. Speech recognition systems allow users to operate computers by speaking words and letters. Although some systems recognize limited commands from any clear voice, the most effective systems are "trained" to recognize the individual speech pattern of one specific user. Users can communicate using speech recognition software to type, surf the web, send email, control their environmental system, play games, and more.

Head gear

Head gear allows for a head mounted mouse which replaces the standard computer mouse (PC or Mac) for people who cannot use or have limited use of their hands when controlling a mouse or augmentative communication device. The head gear translates natural movements of a user’s head into direct proportional movements of the mouse pointer. The head gear has a wireless optical sensor which tracks a tiny disposable target that is conveniently placed on the user’s forehead, glasses, hat, etc. It works just like a computer mouse, with the mouse pointer being moved by the motion of the user’s head.

The head gear will track the user’s head with the user located in any comfortable viewing position relative to the computer display. Resolution of the head gear is precise to allow a user to control the mouse pointer down to the minimum, pixel perfect, resolution of the computer display. This precision allows a user to perform such tasks as drawing, gaming, graphics work and Computer Aided Design (CAD).

On-screen keyboard

When head gear is used with an on-screen keyboard, the combination provides head-controlled access to all the full range of functions for both keyboard and mouse, and to thousands of personal computer functions including surfing the Internet.

An array of possible head gear mounts are available for notebook computers, flat panel displays and Alternative and Augmentative Communication (AAC) devices.

High-resolution intelligent camera

A high-resolution intelligent camera makes for a smooth, reliable, robust, accurate and easy to mount and use electronic pointer. The camera tracks a small dot that you can place on your forehead, glasses, or the rim of a hat. This technology is not meant for the gaming market, it is an assistive technology tool designed exclusively for people with limited use of their hands.

Used by people with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), spinal cord injuries, Muscular Dystrophy (MD), and other special needs. The intelligent camera was designed to complement the natural head motion you already perform when looking around. Moving your head less than a quarter inch easily maneuvers the cursor throughout your entire screen. Camera navigation gives you full computer control and comes with everything you need to command your computer using only your head motion without the need for hands.


An advanced joystick operated USB mouse is controlled with your mouth, cheek, chin, or tongue to shift the mouse cursor wherever you want. The further you move the joystick, the quicker the cursor moves. You can perform right-click, left-click and double-click actions with the sip and puff switches built into the unit. The unit requires slight action, for cursor response, which is fast, smooth, and fully accurate. Works excellent for drawing and playing games.

Morse code input

Morse code input supports user-selectable versions of Morse Code text input with Dual-tone audio via the sip-and-puff controller. In Morse code input, users activate two switches (e.g., a sip-and-puff switch or two head switches) to generate the dots and dashes. Adaptive hardware and software translate Morse Code into the corresponding keyboard characters or commands on the computer.

Event: Accessible Mobile Apps and Kiosks

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The self-service trend for customers through mobile apps and kiosks has exploded in recent years. Identify gaps in your processes that may prevent all customers from utilizing these tools. Explore how to provide an accessible user experience for all when designing, developing, and deploying mobile apps and kiosks.

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