Alternative mouse systems

Using a mouse requires a certain type of manual dexterity, therefore, alternative pointing devices are important for inclusion. Alternatives include trackballs, joysticks, trackpads, switches, and transmitter or reflective dots.

A Trackball is a stationary device that holds a ball that you can freely maneuver in any direction. It separates the movement of the pointer from the mouse clicks, especially useful for less fine motor control and for those who find a sustained grip on the traditional mouse uncomfortable. Many trackballs offer the conventional left and right mouse buttons plus one or two extras that can be programmed to be a double click or click and drag functions.

A series of Switches (1-5 of them) may be programmed so an individual can move the pointer and “click.”

Joysticks are gaming related pointing devices that offer an alternate grip and movement.

Trackpads are a touch sensitive flat surface – you drag your finger on the surface to control the screen cursor. You can get track pads that attach it to your computer. Most laptops offer a built-in trackpad that is positioned in front of the keyboard.

Mouse input can also be controlled by high tech pointing devices, which transmit the location of a transmitter or reflective dot on the user’s head to the computer system, or follow the movement of the users’ eye. Separate switches or just dwelling on a location are used for mouse clicks and drags. These devices are frequently used with on-screen keyboards for text input by people with limited movement. 

Questions to consider when choosing an alternative mouse system


  • Does it use eye/head tracking, foot pedals, or sip and puff, or is it handheld?
  • If handheld, is it a mouse, joystick, trackball, touch screen or pen?
  • Does it allow tactile feedback?
  • Does it have voice input control?
  • How much force or physical control is required?
  • Does it provide tactile feedback?


  • Are there any visual, hearing, cognitive or developmental difficulties that may impact the ability to use the keyboard? (e.g., Do you need to add any labels or coloured markings as cues?)
  • Do you need to adjust any settings within the computer’s operating system (e.g., pointer speed)?
  • Consider where the alternative mouse system is set up. Can you l independently access it?
  • How easy it is to take with you if portability is required? (e.g., size, weight, carrying case, battery life/power source, connection). Consider back-up options if transporting the device is not feasible (e.g., less ideal mouse system if ideal is not portable).


  • Does the device require a driver and if so, does it have a driver for your computer or device’s operating system?
  • When choosing a mouse control software, what are the additional hardware requirements needed (e.g., webcam, mounting systems)?
  • How does it connect to your computer? Is it a wired or a wireless connection? (e.g., USB, wireless, Bluetooth, etc.)


  • What is the warranty available for the technology? How are repairs handled? (e.g., is there someone in your area?)
  • How will you get support if you need it? (e.g., a technician in the school, a local vendor, by telephone, by email, remote access, etc.)


Manufacturers and Suppliers of Alternative Mouse Devices 

Links are provided for information purposes only. SNOW does not endorse any of the following software or hardware.


Applied Human Factors, Inc 

EyeTech Digital Systems

Contour Designs



IMG, Inc.



Natural Point

Origin Instruments


RJ Cooper



Free or Open Source Mouse Control Software

Ace Centre – SAW5 Designer (Windows), SAW5 Lite (Windows)

Camera Mouse (Windows)

CREA Software Systems – Enable Viacam or EViacam (Windows, Linux)

Polital Enterprises – Point N’ Click Virtual Mouse (Windows)

Did you know? 

There are built-in mouse features available for free on your computer.  Learn more about the INSERTLINKLATER accessibility features of your computer here. 

Additional Links

AutoHotkey is an open source utility for Windows that allows you to create hotkeys for mouse, joystick and keyboard.

KeyXL is an online database of keyboard shortcuts for various Windows, Mac and Linux programs.