Using a computer if you have tremors

Essential tremor is caused by an issue of the central nervous system, although the reason why it occurs isn’t really known. People can develop a tremor after having a stroke, MS or dystonia. According to the National Tremor Foundation over 1 million people have an essential tremor in the UK.

Read more about Essential Tremors on the NHS Choices website.

It may be helpful to have a keybaord with very big keysWhat adaptations can make a computer easier to use for someone with essential tremor?

Based on calls to our helpline here are three of the most common questions asked by people with the condition or their carers

I’m having difficulties using the keyboard. What can I do?

If you have a condition that causes tremors you might have lots of unwanted extra characters appearing, but there are many ways you can adapt your keyboard to make it easier for you to use. Use our easy to follow instructions to turn on Filter Keys so that even if you find it really hard to take your hand away from the keyboard you won't end up with lots of unwanted letters.

You may also want to look at one of the many adapted keyboards which are available.

My hands are very shaky and I’d prefer to talk to the computer. Can I do this?

If you decide that you want to try and minimise your use of the keyboard, and if your voice is good you could look at using Voice Recognition. It's built into all current Mac and Windows computers and is also found on Android, iOS and Windows phones and tablets. It needs is a little bit of patience to get used to but can be a very effective way of working without using the keyboard.

You can browse the internet, send and receive emails and create word processing documents just by using your voice. Lots of people at home and work do use voice recognition to produce written work of a high standard.

Would a touch screen benefit me?

It depends on the severity of the tremor. If you have fairly good arm and finger control then it might be a good idea but if you do have quite a pronounced tremor using a touch screen might actually cause more difficulties. Unfortunately it is very difficult to change the sensitivity of a touch screen.

Case Study: Veronica slows down her mouse

Veronica called us to say that she had lots of difficulties with double clicking the mouse and not being able to use the mouse accurately.  We talked her through changing the settings of the mouse to make it a bit slower so it is easier for her to be more accurate. We also pointed her towards some software which would do the clicking for her. This is called Dwell Click 2 and is fairly inexpensive to buy.


How can we help?

AbilityNet provides a range of services to help disabled people and older people who have tremors:

  • Call our free Helpline. Our friendly, knowledgeable staff will discuss any kind of computer problem and do their best to come up with a solution. We’re open Monday to Friday from 9am to 5pm on 0800 269 545.
  • If you are in work your employer has a responsibility to make Reasonable Adjustment.   For more details on this have a look at www.abilitynet.org.uk/ctod and www.cleartalentsatwork.com
  • Arrange a home visit. We have a network of AbilityNet ITCanHelp volunteers who can help if you have technical issues with your computer systems. They can come to your home, or help you over the phone.
  • We have a range of factsheets which talk in detail about technology that might help you, which can be downloaded for free. You may find our factsheets talking about voice recognition and keyboard alternatives useful.
  • My Computer My Way. Our free interactive guide explains all the accessibility features that are built into every current desktop computer, laptop, tablet and smartphone.

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