Alternative Mouse Systems


an image of a Kensington trackball





Alternative pointing devices are used to replace the mouse. This may include the use of trackballs, joysticks, trackpads, switches, etc.

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 those who have less fine motor control and for those who find a sustained grip on the traditional mouse uncomfortable. Many trackballs offer the left and right mouse buttons plus one or two more which can be programmed to be a double click or 'click and drag' functions.

Joysticks are gaming related pointing devices. A joystick might work well for someone who has difficulties with other pointing devices.

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

For those unable to use a traditional mouse or trackball, one to five INSERTLINKLATER switches may be programmed to allow the user to move the pointer and “click.”

Mouse input can also be given 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 INSERTLINKLATER on-screen keyboards for text input by people with limited movement. 

Points to Ponder: Questions to consider when choosing an alternative mouse system

  • Features
    • 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?
    • Usability
      • 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).
      • Compatibility
        • 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.)
        • Support
          • 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.)


Resources: Manufacturers/Suppliers of Alternative Mouse Devices 

SNOW does not endorse any of the following software/hardware. These links are provided for information purposes only.


Applied Human Factors, Inc 

EyeTech Digital Systems


Contour Designs



IMG, Inc.



Natural Point

Origin Instruments


RJ Cooper




Free/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)


Built-In Mouse Pointer Options

Did you know? That there are built in mouse features available for free on your computer.  Learn more about the INSERTLINKLATER accessibility features of your computer here. 


Additional Useful Links

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

KeyXL provides you with keyboard shortcuts for various programs for Windows, Mac, Linux platforms.