Saturday, May 19, 2007

Morse Code

Years ago I had a wonderful student who typed using Morse Code with a single head switch. Her multiple disabilities included profound blindness spastic quadriplegia, but she was able to tap out code to do assignments like spelling sentences and book reports. She still writes e-mails and uses this method for computer access. She used Discover:Kenx and Discover:Screen on an Macintosh Power Book, some of the software she used included Co:Writer, Write:Outloud, JAWS and Scan and Calc. Later we tried to switch her to the Darci USB, but she ended up sticking with her Discover set-up.

I don't know who taught her Morse Code, she came to me already knowing it, although she occasionally forgot the code for the semi-colon. I have often wondered why this access method is not taught more; it could work so well for so many. In that light, Darci is offering a free program to aid in teaching Morse Code to those with disabilities.

Morse Code has a number of useful applications in special education/assistive technology, no the least of which is literacy. If the goal is literacy for all, morse code as an assistive technology tool helps us reach that goal. Use of semantic oriented AAC (Minspeak, Unity) and computer input increases speed of AAC but not literacy (in fact, in my experience, it impedes literacy). Morse code improves speed and literacy. Most code users can reach 30 wpm, with even the most limited users reaching at least 10-15 words per minute, expert users can use Morse code at up to 99 words per minute. This can be dramatically faster than scanning, head or mouth stick. Add the assistance of word prediction and macros and this can increase dramatically. In fact, in test after test Morse Code is faster than typing on a handheld. Morse code users can create unique AAC messages, which is something that can only truly be done by those who can spell, using Morse code or some other spelling method.

The pre-requisites to Morse Code for access are ability to hit a switch with control for a length of time or two switches without that timing control, ability to count to five, emergent literacy/spelling skills. You do not need to be able to see or hear, you do not need to be able to control a mouse or mouse emulator, you don't even need head control.

Morse Code Teaching
Morse Code Input Devices/Systems
Morse Code Accepting AAC
Morse Code Software
Online Articles about Morse Code and AT/AAC
Watch a video of a user entering input with Morse Code.

Please comment if you know of a resource I missed.

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