Motor Neurone Disease (MND) and Computing

Motor Neurone Disease is also known as ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease (after an American baseball player). It affects the muscles in your body causing them to be weak.  There is no known cure for this condition, but symptoms can be managed to help people to achieve the best possible quality of life.  This blog has been written to coincide with MND Awareness Month which runs throughout June.

Professor Stephen Hawking

According to the MND Association there are 5000 people with the condition in the UK. (Source: MND Association). The causes aren’t really understood but it may be something to do with chemicals and structures in the motor nerves.

The effects include difficulty speaking and movement; eating and swallowing are also affected and eventually the muscles that assist breathing fail. There are different types of the condition. Famous people with the condition include Professor Stephen Hawking.

FAQs about MND and computing

These commonly asked questions about having MND illustrate some of the many ways of using a computer effectively.

I sometimes find it hard to use the standard mouse. What can I do?

There are lots of different mouse alternatives available, including rollerballs and joysticks. Take a look at our factsheet about mouse alternatives to work out which one may be best for you.  If you have issues with “clicking” the mouse button you can download some free software which means you don’t have to do any clicking whatsoever.

You can also check My Computer My Way to see if changing the way the mouse pointer moves might help!

Can I talk to my computer?

If your voice is clear then we’d advise trying out voice recognition. It’s built into all new Windows and Apple computers as well as most tablets and smartphones.

For more details have a look at our easy to understand step by step instructions on My Computer My Computer.

We’ve also written a factsheet about voice recognition that offers advice about various options.

Some times you might find that your voice changes throughout the day. We’d recommend that you have a couple of different voice profiles. So for example you might have a “Morning voice” profile and an “Afternoon voice” profile.

Sometimes I have difficulty reaching all the keys on the keyboard. What can I do?

A lot of people like to use keyboards that don’t have the number pad on the right hand side. This means the keyboards are a lot smaller than normal ones. They are called “compact” keyboards.

A keyguard might also be useful. This will stop you from hitting two keys at once!  As the condition progresses it might be worth exploring other input options like switches.

There are lots of different keyboards available – take a look at our factsheet on keyboard alternatives to learn more about your options. 

Case study

Ben called us on behalf of his uncle Terry. Terry has had MND for a year and is now starting to find it difficult to use the mouse. We had a chat to Terry and have suggested some alternatives to the standard mouse such as a rollerball. We’ve also suggested installing some software which will do automatic “clicking”.  We have identified some retailers that have a “try before you buy” policy. We have also suggested that one of our IT Can Help volunteers might come to her house and help with installation of equipment.

More help from AbilityNet

AbilityNet provides a range of free services to help disabled people and older people.

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.

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 

Our expert factsheets talk in detail about technology that might help you and can be downloaded for free. You may find our factsheets talking about voice recognition and keyboard alternatives useful.

My Computer My Way

Our free guide to all the accessibility features built into every computer, laptop, tablet and smartphone. We show you the adjustments that can make your time on the computer that bit easier.

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