Accessing Technology with Ataxia

Here are a few tips that has worked for me since I developed Ataxia and which might work for other people.

1) Mobility scooters take less co-ordination to control than powered chairs cos its simple lever that controls forwards or reverse. Most scooters have a speed control so you can set it at slow maximum speed and keep the lever held at full speed position without needing tiny movements of lever to go from slow to fast. .. you need more gross motor strength of arms though to turn tiller (as if steering a bike) especially on the larger heavy duty scooters.

2) Most powerchairs do have a speed control so you can also set it to a max slower speed and just hold the joystick in full position, You need less gross motor control to turn them but more fine motor control in general as joystick controls 8 directions rather than just 2.

3) You can also buy computer joysticks that work the same way and have speed control so you can control how fast the cursor moves across the screen. They also often have functions such as Drag lock which makes scrolling easier and reduces the need to both hold down a button and move joystick. trackball at same time.

4) Technology such as Headmouse and Eye Gaze maybe more difficult if you have head tremor or more involuntary movements in general. This is because the technology is continuously tracking your movements. You may find it difficult to keep the cursor steady enough for it to activate a link once you reached it.

5) Joysticks or trackballs that allow you to remove hand (or foot) off it once you have reached the point you want the cursor at may work better, some software can be set to dwellclick after a given time that is adjustable. You may prefer to have a separate switch to activate a click if you find the dwellclicker is activating too many things for you, as then have to be very careful where you 'rest' the cursor (it's not over a link or other clickable item)

6) sometimes placing a switch alongside a larger muscle such as thigh (works well for wheelchair users) maybe easier than using a switch that requires fingertips to activate it. You may find you can respond quicker and software that scans your screen item by item may be an option.

7) Positioning can really make a difference! Having items like mice (and mice alternatives) on a table infront where arms are outstretched can increase tremor. Instead try using bluetooth keyboard with keyguard on your lap or a mouse alternative with on screen keyboard, keeping arms tucked in and trunk supported by cushions (if in regular chair) or lateral supports (trunk pads) for wheelchair users can really make a difference for some people, to the amount of control you have over your arm movements. If you prefer arms on table (if can get chair right under) infront try placing a V support cushion under them so the V's run the length of your arms with joystick etc in the middle.

8) If you need to use a communciation aid (and are wheelchair user) it is easier to type with something on your lap and arms supported than having a device mounted vertically so you have to reach out with nothing under arm when you're trying to line hand up to hit the right key. I use the Trabasack tray, you can get them with hard top or soft velcro top. If you prefer to have device mounted, try angling it so its positioned over your knees as if on a tray, placing cushions under elbows may help you keep optimum position for accessing your device with hands. A stylus maybe helpful for those who find it easier to keep hand in a fist and hold something (or attach stylus via a splint)

Often the tremor or involuntary movements in Ataxia come from the fact your brain is trying to establish where your limbs are in space in relation to the rest of your body (proprioception) it creates them as a form of feedback for the brain. Making sure arms (and trunk) are supported will make it easier to sit still, reducing the amount of shake or jerky movements you will get trying to use your arms.

Hope you find these tips useful


Awesome post Kati!

Thanks for all the wonderful info. Kati!

It's so cool that this post has been viewed 80 times already. Very neat. Nice job Kati.

Thank you Kati. Very much appreciated

rose said:

Thanks for all the wonderful info. Kati!

Kati, thank you. It's very helpful.

I would also like to add a notice. Recently my wife ran through a series of test to check her ability what she could and couldn't. My impression for her was that a scooter was more comfortable for her than a wheelchair but she said that ina wheelchair she felt more secure. The only problem was that the wheelchair joystick was too sensitive for her too operate. Perhaps, with a proper adjustment of the wheelchair control the wheelchair would be more appropriate. Does it make sense?

Hi Igor yes this makes perfect sense.

Scooters tend to have standard seating which is nt as supportive whereas a powerchair can have specialised seating and driving options but it’s why they cost so much more.

I’m not sure what model scooters your wife tried…the smaller boot scooters tend to have very basic seating, but if it needs to go in a car boot for small shopping trips there’s not much choice really as the aim is to make the parts as light as possible.

If you can go up to Midi size cos its not needed to take apart frequently, you can choose a scooter with a captains seat (with head rest), there are now more models around that have built in lumbar support (looks like slight wings on the side). I just got a cheapback support and hung it on. I’ll take pic later. (I’m still in bed at minute only 7.30am here!).

Peope, are usually only on scooters for a short time for a specific trip whilst someone could be sat in powerchair all day, everyday, so the seating options are different.

If the arm rests have an adjustable height you could higher them so they come further up your wife’s sides, then if you can find way to attach small cushion pads it may make her feel safer on scooter? I usually press my feet firmly against the front shroud and push myself into the seat as I’m going up or down a kerb, as I can feel the back of scooter firmly against my back and my feet firmly pressed against front of scooter my body kind of knows where it is and that I’m not falling as I go over the bumps.

Sme scooters offer a rally car style seat (called Recaro seating) , you know that type?..kind of looks like a child’s car seat and hugs your body? …usually found on the bigger scooters. It depends what your wife wants to use it for? A scooter would be cheaper if it’s for occasional use like a weekly shopping trip on it 1-2 hours max. If she needs it anytime you go out and just to be sat in for extended periods she maybe better with a chair?



Thank you for such very detailed reply. Scooter idea came up as a possible accommodation in her workplace. It's a long story. One of the problem for her is to go to the bathroom. She has to go through a long hall and over time she has developed kind of fear of fall because there is nothing she could there grab to manage her balance. Also very often it gets very busy which makes it more difficult for her to manage the walk. So one of the idea was to use a scooter. However it appears that she is more confident walking rather than using a scooter or any other mobility devices. She absolutely hates walker or cane. If you have any thoughts on that I would appreciate if you share.


Kati said:

Hi Igor yes this makes perfect sense.

If she's still able to walk and workplace are willing to provide her with a small scooter just to get to the bathroom.. go for a small boot scooter just to keep at work? hopefully someone can put it on charge for her everynight or something?

She could then use it if she wanted to visit a large shopping centre or take home with her for when you on holiday and want to go out sight seeing or something?

A scooter also doesn't feel like something she has to be in all the time, she can still continue to walk around for distances she can manage.