For managers, the most important tool for accessibility can be understanding

It's not something I write about a lot, but I am disabled myself, which probably explains my decades-long interest in this field. If your hands or back don't hurt when you sit down to a computer, it's difficult to really understand the need for accessible hardware.

I can access a computer without special hardware but would never be able to do as much as I do without carefully managing my work environment.

Just this summer I developed so much pain in my hands that I had to fall back on voice recognition software, which, as I reported in a recent guide, has far greater accuracy than such software provided just a few years ago.

This is in large part because the noise cancellation microphones, which often ship with voice recognition programs, are much better.

I don't know how long I could work in an office if I were required to use a standard desk, chair and keyboard.

I have held keyboards in my lap for decades and am simply unable to use a mouse for long periods of time.

Today I use a standard Dell Inc. keyboard and have seldom found a keyboard I couldn't use. But instead of a mouse I use a cursor-control touchpad that sits on the seat beside me so I can rest my arm and wrist on the seat.

More productivity

Managers need to understand that many marginally impaired workers can also become more productive and are far less likely to develop repetitive stress injuries if they are allowed flexibility of even a few simple steps, such as moving their keyboard off the desk or using an alternative pointing device.

It isn't a matter of pampering workers or putting up with eccentric staff'managers who don't spend hours every day sitting at a computer workstation just don't realize how important it is to get into the most comfortable position.

Over the years I've seen that the biggest barrier to most disabled workers is the manager who fails to understand the need or who just doesn't want to be bothered.

The products in the accompanying chart are mostly intended for people with severe impairments because minor impairments, while important, can often be addressed with a bit of flexibility in the workplace.

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