without a mouse

without a mouse

If you never use a mouse, you can skip this activity.

If you have your usual document editor open, close it now.

Put your mouse where you can't reach it easily and continue using only the keyboard. If you get stuck, use the mouse but keep count of the number of times you use it and what for.

See if you can open the editor using the Windows keystrokes.

If you don't know where to start, here are the keystrokes. (These insructions are for a PC with Windows software. If you are not using Windows, check the relevant help files on your computer for keystrokes for opening applications, then put the mouse away.)

Press CTRL+ESC to display the Start menu.

If your program is visible in the program list, press the first letter of the program name to select it.

If not, press P to highlight Programs or All Programs. You may have to press it more than once if you have other programs that start with the same letter. Use the ARROW KEYS to navigate to your program.

When the name of your program is selected, press ENTER to open it.

Once it is open, if you don't start with a new document, use the menus to open one. Most editors have this option on the File menu.

Most menus can be activated using ALT with the first letter of the menu name, for example ALT/F. The relevant letter is usually underlined.

Type in a few sentences about anything you like. Correct any typing errors.

Go to the fourth word and highlight it. (Hint: hold down the SHIFT key and press the LEFT or RIGHT arrow keys.) Make it bold. (Control + B). Now undo that (Control +Z). Go to the start of the fifth word and highlight the next three words. Copy them (Control + C) then paste them (Control + V) at the end of the last sentence.

If you found that easy, try indenting the text or creating a table with five rows and three columns. You may need to consult the program's help files to find the keystrokes.

How did you get on? Many people regularly use the keyboard for most activities, but reach for the mouse occasionally as it is hard to remember all the keystrokes for less frequent activities. Were there any actions that you couldn't do at all?


Dyslexia is sometimes referred to as a specific learning difficulty (SLD).

The British Dyslexia Association provides a useful description of dyslexia, its effects, and the numbers of people affected.

The word ‘dyslexia’ comes from the Greek and means ‘difficulty with words’. It is a difference in the brain area that deals with language. It affects the under-lying skills that are needed for learning to read, write and spell. Brain imaging techniques show that dyslexic people process information differently. Around 4% of the population is severely dyslexic. A further 6% have mild to moderate problems. Dyslexia occurs in people from all backgrounds and of all abilities, from people who cannot read to those with university degrees. Dyslexic people, of all ages, can learn effectively but often need a different approach.

(British Dyslexia Association, 2005, 'What is dyslexia?', (Accessed 31 July 2007))

Use of computers by dyslexic people

In general, people with dyslexia may have difficulty reading, and may also have difficulty in composing and physically writing or typing their own work. This group can be supported by assistive technology for both input and output and they may use a range of software to assist them in reading and writing, depending on their particular needs. People who have difficulties with reading may use text-to-speech software that reads out text. For example, the screen readers used by visually impaired people, as described earlier, or other software, which may provide a visual indication as words are spoken so that the user can follow the voice.

People who have difficulty reading may also use software or operating system settings to change the presentation of the text. The type of presentation depends on the specific needs of the individual, but many find it useful to change the size, character spacing, line spacing and line length of text on the screen. Also different combinations of text and background colour can make text more readable.

People who have difficulty composing or writing text may use voice recognition software to dictate into the computer. Others may use word-prediction utilities to increase the ease and speed of composing text.

Other impairments

There are people with a wide range of other impairments that are not covered by the above groups, but which may affect study. Some examples are listed below.

  • People with diabetes may have reduced sensitivity in their hands.

  • People with many different conditions may experience severe pain, which makes it difficult for them to concentrate on a task.

  • People with mental illness may have a range of difficulties, including lack of engagement and concentration or difficulty communicating with others.

  • People can have a range of speech impairments.

  • Older people may have a range of conditions that restrict their movement or their ability to concentrate, or they may have memory problems.

  • People with fatigue may find it difficult to study without frequent breaks.

People may have variable conditions that allow them to study only at certain times of the day and people using medication could be affected by most of the above list.

As we said earlier some people have multiple impairments; for example, a wheelchair user may also be deaf or a visually impaired person may be dyslexic and have poor hearing. Older people in particular are likely to have multiple impairments. This may make it quite complicated to support a student with suitable equipment and services.

Use of computers by people with other disabilities

People with other disabilities/conditions may have difficulties with using computers or other devices. Some examples are listed below.

  • People who have brain damage may have poor concentration or loss of short term memory. This may make it difficult for them to complete activities in a single session or to remember keystrokes or sequences of actions.

  • Mental health issues may result in lack of concentration or engagement.

  • People with diabetes may have reduced sensitivity in their fingertips.

  • People who cannot speak or have a severe speech impairment may not be able to use speech-operated applications or devices. People with mild speech impairment should be able to train voice recognition software to recognise their speech as long as their speech is consistent within certain limits.

  • Older people may have a range of sensory or physical impairments

    Accessible content and alternatives

    Assistive technology can give access only to whatever is on the screen; it doesn't provide any alternative content, unless this is specifically added. For example, a screen reader cannot interpret visual content but it can read a description if one has been provided.

    Multimedia content might need to be supplemented with the same content in other formats. Deaf students need transcripts of audio and for the audio track of video material. If the video is an interview, a simple transcript may be sufficient, otherwise it needs to be synchronised with the visual flow.

    Visual material needs to be described for blind and partially sighted people. This includes any writing presented in an image format, such as a picture of a manuscript or a facsimile of a newspaper cutting. Guidelines for describing visual teaching material have been produced for the OU and are available at the OU Knowledge Network site.

    Providing alternative content can take time and the best person to do it is the author of the material. They know what the intended learning outcome is and can judge what essential information needs to be conveyed.

    Alternative content can be provided in various ways; for example a short description can be added as an ‘ALT’ tag in the code for an image on a web page. Most screen readers will read this out automatically. A longer description could be put on a separate page and linked from the figure caption. A transcript could be displayed automatically as audio is playing or links could be offered to one or the other.