Is there any advice or best practices for the design of a desktop mouse and keyboard interface for people who suffer from arthritis, or has any research been done in this field?

  • This is a bit of a broad question here. Do you have a specific requirement in mind? - A particular situation or application? The requirements would differ significantly for users wanting to work with 3ds Max compared to usage of Microsoft Word for example. What is the particular situation that you have that you need this catered to?
    – JonW
    Aug 12, 2013 at 8:28
  • I don't think this is too broad, accessibility guidelines are a set of best practices covering much broader scope so I think a good, useful and specific answer can be given to this question. I don't think the specificity needs to be in the software, it can be in the interface (specifically mouse and keyboard) or the disability (arthritis)
    – Toni Leigh
    Aug 12, 2013 at 9:14
  • It's broad because it can't really be answered simply in a Q&A post. As stated in the What types of questions should I avoid asking? section - "Your questions should be reasonably scoped. If you can imagine an entire book that answers your question, you’re asking too much". An answer left to this question is either going to just be a link to a big paper (link-only answers aren't suited to this site) or it's potentially going to be huge. We'll leave the question open for now to see the type of answers that come in, but it's quite a broad subject.
    – JonW
    Aug 12, 2013 at 9:22
  • 1
    I think there are plenty of questions on here where the users context is not defined, but the tool or interaction method is; here the users context is defined specifically but the tool is not. I would say both are reasonably scoped and not likely to generate a books worth of answer.
    – Toni Leigh
    Aug 12, 2013 at 15:49

3 Answers 3


You could also think of alternative interfaces, like gesture recognition as implemented by Leap Motion, Kinect and Qualcomm amongst others.

This type of sensors use infrared light and other frequencies to determine the position of the users hands and the position of their fingers.

Based on the information retrieved by those devices you could define gestures that are easy to perform, without any strenuous finger positions so that the user doesn't have to exert himself.

This combined with a good user interface and maybe even speech recognition (List of Speech Recognition Software) would give you a path completely independet of the current Mouse-Keyboard restriction.

So my sugestion:

  • Gesture recognition
  • Custom user interface which can be controlled solely by said gestures
  • Speech recognition to eliminate the keyboard for typing text

Using a roller ball rather than a mouse seems to help people with arthritis.

For research, it might be worth picking up the phone to these people (UK):

Helen Hamlyn Centre for Design

Age & Ability Research Lab

Googling "Assistive Technology" will also find some useful information.

  • Can you give some reasoning around the roller-ball suggestion? There may be some interesting ideas there. However, suggesting the OP goes and phones an agency to get an answer isn't really a constructive answer so you should focus on the Rollerball idea. Of course you could phone that agency and detail what they have to say, and that would be a good answer but don't suggest everyone reading this post should go and do the same if they want to get an answer.
    – JonW
    Aug 12, 2013 at 9:24
  • The rollerball came from trying to help someone who had arthritis and it seemed to help - it was a design with a large ball on top which the user moved rather than trying to move the mouse itself.
    – PhillipW
    Aug 12, 2013 at 17:24
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    I felt it was rather more useful to provide some kind of answer - rather than a very good answer. I may have time to improve the answer in the future. Or I may not.
    – PhillipW
    Aug 12, 2013 at 17:29

Best practices:

1. Assume everyone has arthritis (because eventually, if we're lucky and we live long enough, we all will).

2. Avoid Fitts' Law violations and make it easy for the user to acquire the target.

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