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Eye Gaze Technology

Guest post contributed by Erin Swann, AT Specialist, MDTAP

Eye gaze technology allows a user to access a device (communication device, computer, or tablet) using eye movement. For example, instead of using a mouse, keyboard, or touch screen, the user could use eye movement to move a cursor, to perform mouse clicks, and to type using an onscreen keyboard.  As a result, someone with difficulty using a standard mouse or keyboard may benefit from using eye gaze technology to access a device.

For the best results, the eye gaze system should be positioned about two feet away from the user’s eyes. Also, eye gaze users can perform a calibration of the software to increase the accuracy.  During calibration, cameras facing the eyes take measurements that allow the software to predict where the user is looking on the screen.  Proper positioning and calibration is necessary to make sure the system selects the target on the screen that the user is actually looking at.

Once the software has been calibrated, the user can move the cursor to the desired location through eye movement.   For example, looking at the Start Menu button will move the cursor over the Start Menu button.  Users can click on targets by blinking (a longer than normal blink) or by dwell clicking.  Dwell clicking is achieved by staring at one location for a specified amount of time.  One second is a good time limit for dwell clicking for new users, and the dwell time can be shortened as the user gets more comfortable and familiar with the system.

To receive an eye gaze communication device through insurance, a face to face doctor visit resulting in a prescription for a communication device and an evaluation by a speech language pathologist is required. The speech language pathologist will go over all communication device options to determine if an eye gaze device is the best fit.  The cost of an eye gaze communication device is around $15,000.  A stand-alone eye gaze bar that can be plugged into a computer costs much less at around $2,000.  However, insurance will not cover the cost of a stand-alone eye gaze bar. 

If funding is needed, the Maryland Technology Assistance Program allows people with disabilities to apply for a low interest loan to cover the cost of assistive technology (http://mdod.maryland.gov/mdtap/Pages/AT-Financial-Loan-Program.aspx).

If you would like to see a demonstration of eye gaze technology, you can arrange a visit to the Maryland Technology Assistance Program’s Assistive Technology Library by calling 1-800-832-4827 or emailing mdtap@mdtap.org

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