Touch screen monitors and related software that enable a traditional monitor to emulate a touch screen are powerful tools for students with disabilities. Touch screens may display graphics that the user can touch to enter commands and make software selections. Special software can display the image of a computer keyboard on the screen so that keys or commands can be pointed to and clicked on. Whether hardware- or software-based, touch screen technologies can improve the life of a student with disabilities.

The Alliance for Technology Access ( is a network of resources that provides information and support services to children and adults with disabilities including information about assistive devices. Its web site includes many success stories. Two such stories demonstrate the power of touch screen technology.

United Cerebral Palsy of Idaho shared the story of Melissa. Melissa, a 4-year-old with cerebral palsy, had difficulty holding her head up and moving her arms. In her school's computer lab, a TouchWindow was installed so she could play math games. In addition to practicing math concepts, Melissa was able to strengthen her right arm by reaching out to touch the screen. She was also able to strengthen her neck as she worked to keep her head up to see the monitor and work with the software. This adaptive technology not only assisted in teaching skills, it helped improve the learner's muscle tone.

Technology Assistance for Special Consumers in Huntsville, Alabama, shared the story of Steven, who had a stroke at age 16 that left him a quadriplegic. He had partial paralysis of all extremities and was unable to speak. After the stroke, he could move only his head, but that was enough, with the help of a combination of assistive technologies that included a keyboard display on a screen. Steven learned to use a computer by scanning. Scanning is a system in which a keyboard is displayed on a screen with keys highlighted one after another. Simply by pressing a single switch button when the highlight appeared on the right key, Steven was able to communicate via computer. Today, having gained more movement in his arms, he can use a similar keyboard display that allows him to point to and click on the keys he desires with a glide pad.

SOURCE: Retrieved April 20, 2002, from