Teresa and Computer Science: A Case Study in Coding With Minimal Movement


Teresa is a senior studying computer science. She is a quadriplegic with limited fine motor and speech skills due to Friedreich's ataxia, a progressive neuromuscular disease. Teresa uses a variety of assistive technology (AT) products to access a computer. For programming, she uses a combination of Dragon in Spell Mode and a standard, mechanical keyboard with Windows FilterKeys enabled.

Access Issue

Teresa’s speech to text software, that translates her spoken words into text, doesn’t always work well with the programming environment being used in a class.


Each term, Teresa meets with her instructors before classes start to learn about the courses, programming environments, and assignments. Working with each faculty member, she determines the most accessible solution for completing her assignments. This may include using the same technology as other students, but often it requires that Teresa use a different environment. Teresa prefers to work in an environment that works with a variety of languages so she can use it often and become more efficient. For example, she often uses Atom, an open-source, highly customizable tool, which includes a variety of options that Teresa uses, such as intelligent command prediction and custom color schemes.


There is no one size fits all approach to using AT while programming. Students, faculty, and accessible  IT staff can work together to determine the best solution for a student in a particular class.

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