“What is the best mouse?” I am often asked this question by clients who are experiencing symptoms during computer use. They may have seen a non-standard mouse or relevant advertising material purporting to state that a certain input device is best to manage their presenting symptoms. With the market full of a diverse array of input devices such as track pads, roller bars, vertical mice, joysticks and trackballs it can be difficult for clients to determine which input device will best fit their needs.
Before deciding whether or not to change an input device it is important to consider several key factors. Considering these factors is vital to successfully manage symptoms that may be related to, and / or caused by, input device use. The key factors are as follows:
- Has spinal and upper limb posture been effectively assessed and controlled? Excessive shoulder protraction and arm extension is a common postural issue that should be addressed prior to determining if an alternative input device is required.
- Have other workstation set up factors that contribute to poor upper limb posture been addressed? Commonly, this will include inadequate chair set up and poorly positioned input devices.
- Is the input device being used correctly to support hand, finger and thumb function?
- Is the wrist / forearm fixed or compressed onto the work surface when operating the input device? This is a common issue and is quite often a significant contributing factor to symptoms which are unlikely to change by only providing a new input device.
- Are wrist pads or forearm supports being used with input devices? Are these indicated? Do they promote excessive compression of the wrist / forearm or poor upper limb posture?
- Does the current input device “fit” the user? Has hand size and handedness been considered? The sizing and layout of input device controls should reflect these factors.
- Is the input device being used at a shared workstation? If so, the selection of an appropriate input device will have to consider the needs of multiple users.
- What tasks are performed with the input device? Do they require high degree of accuracy?
- Have all input device functions such as reaction time been configured for the user? Adjusting and optimising these functions will enhance usability.
- Is overall workload a contributing factor? Do task requirements need to be modified so that the volume and frequency of input device use can be better controlled?
- Are tabs, keyboard shortcuts and hot keys being used adequately? Use of these functions can reduce the need for mouse use.
- What is the underlying cause of any symptoms (if present)? How do these symptoms impact functional capacity when using input devices? Understanding these elements is essential to ensuring the input device is used appropriately. If necessary, consideration should be given to selecting an alternate input device.
- Are regular circulatory and range of motion exercises being performed? These can great assist with symptom management.
- Do alternative input device options need to be considered that significantly reduce the need for upper limb use? These may include infrared camera head trackers, eye trackers and speech recognition software.
It is important to note that there is no ideal input device that will fit all users needs. However, consideration of these key factors will better assist with symptom management and determining if an existing input device is acceptable or a non-standard option should be considered. Please feel free to contact Ergability at firstname.lastname@example.org if you require expert advice on assessing input device use and / or office workstation ergonomics.