“Does anyone have any good sources of info on desk, mouse, keyboard etc ergonomics?” read the message in a group chat.
I must say I’m not a specialist in this area, but I won’t let something as inconsequential as complete lack of expertise get in the way of me offering a helping hand. So I replied asking the person to direct message me for more details, and I’d see what I could do.
As it turns out, my interlocutor’s friend is having trouble with her wrists and shoulders from extended use of her computer for work (I’m sure many readers can relate to a greater or lesser extent). Could I recommend any ergonomic mouse or keyboard products, or perhaps a voice-to-text program?
As mentioned, I’m not a hardware expert, but I do know people who are. So I set about using my own special skill set: being charming and getting information from people to tie nicely together in a single easy-to-digest package – much like this article you’re reading now.
The price of comfort
When my contacts got back to me, the result was all too predictable: there’s only a handful of good hardware out there, and most of it costs over £200 ($260) per item – often significantly more. For voice to text software, you can triple that.
Understand the conversational AI landscape, three common use cases, customer pain points, and real-world success stories from clients.
Compare, for example, the cost of Logitech’s most expensive gaming mouse – the wireless G502 X Plus Gaming mouse – which is a fancy piece of kit. It retails for £149.99 (approximately $191) direct from Logitech in the UK. The very cheapest wireless RollerMouse from Contour is the £210 ($270) RollerMouse Mobile, while if you’re looking for a wireless ‘main’ mouse alternative rather than a portable one, that will set you back at least £230 ($290) for the RollerMouse Pro Vegan Leather Slim.
This isn’t me having a dig at Contour at all – by all accounts their products are very good for anyone suffering from pain relating to long-term keyboard and mouse use, including carpal tunnel syndrome and arthritis. Yet it seems wrong that something that allows an individual to carry out what now is really a very basic piece of life – using a computer for most of the day – is £100 ($130) more expensive than the mouse-disco light hybrid that is the G502 X Plus.
The hidden cost of disability
In larger organizations, this is a cost that will rightly fall on the employer and one can hope they make the effort to buy something that works well for the individual. But if you’re self-employed or work for a smaller organization with fewer financial resources, the initial outlay to acquire these items can be simply too expensive.
Sadly, none of this will come as a surprise to readers with a disability, or whose friends or loved ones have a disability. It’s just another aspect of what’s sometimes known as the extra cost of disability, hidden cost of disability, or – even more bleakly – the disability tax. If you have additional needs, there’s almost always an additional cost.
Indeed, even those who work in IT who don’t have a personal connection to a colleague with a disability will probably be familiar with this issue if they have any involvement in procurement.
What’s the answer, then? That’s a difficult question to answer. Mass production increases availability and drives down cost; if the items are created in smaller batches to non-standard or unique specifications and have a limited audience, they will be more expensive to produce and so demand a higher price. The manufacturer needs to stay in business, after all.
If it’s beyond the finances of a good portion of those who need it, however, then the potential customer pool shrinks even further, which drives up costs and… well, you get the picture.
Vouchers? Government subsidization? An interest-free repayment scheme? A techno-socialist utopia where there’s free accessible tech and rave mice for all? They’re all options (ok, perhaps not that final one), but while we wait for an answer that may never come, people who need specialist hardware or software but will struggle to afford it could face the choice of debt, pain, or being excluded from the digital world. None of these should be acceptable.
All prices are correct at the time of writing.
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Jane McCallion is ITPro's deputy editor, specializing in cloud computing, cyber security, data centers and enterprise IT infrastructure. Before becoming Deputy Editor, she held the role of Features Editor, managing a pool of freelance and internal writers, while continuing to specialise in enterprise IT infrastructure, and business strategy.
Prior to joining ITPro, Jane was a freelance business journalist writing as both Jane McCallion and Jane Bordenave for titles such as European CEO, World Finance, and Business Excellence Magazine.