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Computer peripherals and AT for people with upper body and sensory impairments

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Computer peripherals (printer, scanner)

Person with upper body impairment (fine motor issues, trouble reaching, lifting)

When a person with upper body impairment is looking to purchase a printer or scanner, there are many different design features that they should consider, such as:

  1. Can the printer or scanner be put at desk height so the person does not have to do a lot of reaching?
  2. Is the printer or scanner light weight and portable?
  3. Does the printer or scanner have controls that do not require fine motor skills, such as large buttons, switches, or touch screen options?
  4. Does the control panel have a lot of presets instead of options that require the person to press/touch the controls multiple times because the information is embedded too deep?
  5. Does the device have good online and telephone customer support? Can the instruction manuals be accessed online so it is easier to look at than manually turning pages?

There are not many good assistive technologies available that could be used in conjunction with a printer or scanner that could make it more accessible for people with upper body impairments. However, one assistive technology that might be helpful is a reacher to help grab copies if a person has difficulty grasping.

Image:reacher.jpg [1]


There are not really any accessible designs or assistive technology versions of a printer or scanner that are specifically for people with upper body impairments. However, there are printers and scanners that have some features that can be helpful (see example below).

While not perfect, this Lexmark X7675 all-in-one printer/copier/scanner is a good example of a somewhat accessible design. The device is light weight, portable and small which makes it easy to lift, relocate, and to navigate around. A person with upper body impairments does not have to reach far to use the paper feeder tray, scan documents, and retrieve printed material. The control panel easily tilts up to reduce awkward body strain. The buttons on the control panel are fairly large and are not bunched together too closely which can be helpful for people who have fine motor problems.

Image:printer1.jpg [2]

Person with sensory impairment (low vision or blind; hard of hearing or deaf)

When a person with a sensory impairment is looking to purchase a printer or scanner, there are many different design features that they should consider, such as:

  1. Can the printer or scanner be operated in multiple ways such as voice recognition (low vision or blind) and keypads (hard of hearing or deaf)?
  2. For users with low vision or who are blind, does the printer or scanner have enlargement capabilities and have large buttons that provide tactile feedback/icons or switches on the control panel?
  3. Does the control panel have auditory (a “ding”) and visual warnings (flashing light) when there is a problem such a paper running, ink running out, or a paper jam? Does the control panel visually display the warnings/alerts on an LCD screen?
  4. Does the device have good online and phone customer support? Can the instruction manuals be accessed online so it can be enlarged for people that have low vision and for users who are hard of hearing or deaf? Are there live phone customer support operators that can assist people who are blind?

There are limited assistive technologies available that could be used in conjunction with a printer or scanner that could make it more accessible for people with sensory impairments. One type of assistive technology that could be used in conjunction with a printer or scanner that might be helpful for people with low vision or who are blind, is computer software that can translate written instructions into speech. This Cannon imageRunner 3045/3035 all-in-one printer/copier/scanner allows people to buy a separate voice operation software and hardware kit for those who have low vision or who are blind. The kit allows users to operate the device by spoken command or allows them to receive auditory confirmation of specific functions.

Image:printer3.jpg [3]


Another type of assistive technology that could be used in conjunction with a printer or scanner that might be helpful for people with low vision or who are blind is a magnifying device that easily attaches to the control panel.

There are no mainstream assistive technologies that could be used in conjunction with a printer or scanner for people who are hard of hearing or deaf, but people may be able to have a software or electrical engineer add custom visual cues, warnings, or alerts to the existing device if none exist.


Accessible designs or assistive technology versions of a printer or scanner specifically for people with sensory impairments does not exist. However, there are printers and scanners that have some features that can be helpful to those with sensory impairments.


This HP 6100 all-in-one printer/copier/scanner has a feature that is good example of accessible design. The device has both auditory and visual alerts for such things as low ink, out of paper, paper jam, top open, and resume job. The control panel has a text display box so people who are hard of hearing or are deaf could read the instructions.


Image:printer2.jpg [4]

References and Authorship

Author: Katherine Olson
Affiliation: Georgia Tech