Independence in Typing

An adapted keyboard is any specially designed keyboard that assists in accessing the computer.  If a person is having difficulties with a standard keyboard and the solutions within the control panel’s accessibility options are not enough, it is worth investigating other keyboard choices. 

IntelliKeys is a powerful, easy-to-use alternative keyboard that plugs directly into the standard keyboard port and runs any software that responds to keyboard commands.  It comes with six overlays including Arrows, Alphabet, Basic Writing, Numbers and QWERTY (standard keyboard layout).  Slide in an overlay and the keyboard recognizes it instantly and reconfigures itself automatically.  Slide in the Setup overlay to adjust keyboard sensitivity, repeat rate, and many other options.  Use the Overlay Maker software to make your own custom overlays.  The keyboard is an oversized membrane style.  (Intellitools, 1-800-899-6687 or www.intellitools.com)

Comfort Keyboard comes in three sections (left-hand, right-hand, and numeric keyboard) and can be independently separated, raised, lowered, rotated, and tilted into an infinite number of positions.  This can remove barriers to keyboard access for people with a variety of physical limitations.  (Ergopro, 1-800-374-6776 or www.ergopro.com)

Kinesis Contoured Ergonomic Keyboard is based on a unique, patented design that minimizes the strain typists experience from heavy use of conventional keyboards.  This keyboard is often suggested by physicians and therapists dealing with keyboard-related overuse injuries.  It is available in both programmable and nonprogrammable models.  (Ergopro, contact information above)

MALTRON Single-Hand Keyboards enable those who have the use of only one hand to access computers as quickly, accurately and easily as conventional keyboard users.  The ergonomic design and special letter layout reduces hand and finger movement, promotes high performance and protects against repetitive strain injuries.  (PCD Maltron, Ltd., England, or www.maltron.com)

ScreenDoors 2000 is the Macintosh or Windows version of the Screen Door family.  Features include word prediction with abbreviation expansion, international keyboards, various layouts, built-in scanning, built-in dwell selection, and more.  (www.accessiblesolutions.net)

WiViK (Windows Visual Keyboard) is a movable, resizable on-screen keyboard that enables the user to enter text into Windows applications with any pointing device, including mice, trackballs, joysticks, touch screens, pens and head-pointing devices.  Keys are selected by pointing and clicking, dragging and releasing, or by dwelling.  (www.prenrom.com)

Datalux Keyboard is a smaller keyboard for the PC in the standard layout.  The keys are approximately the same size but positioned to make the keyboard the size of a laptop keyboard.  Many one-handed users find this keyboard beneficial.  (1-800-DATALUX or www.datalux.com)

Keyguard is a molded keyboard overlay for individuals with upper mobility disabilities or fine motor coordination disabilities.  Cutouts in the keyguard expose and isolate each key on the keyboard, thereby enhancing keying accuracy.  Users can type with either their fingers or a typing stick.  For persons with palsied movements or lacking fine motor coordination, the keyboard eliminates the problem of sliding hands and accidental keystrokes.  Courage Center will customize a computer keyboard.  (Shop Services, 763-520-0491)

Voice Recognition software makes it possible for people to talk into a computer microphone and have their speech converted to text.  Voice recognition can also emulate mouse commands and complete common procedures such as formatting and accessing menus.  Everything that can be completed through keyboard and mouse usage can be completed through voice recognition.  These systems have great potential for people with disabilities, especially those who cannot use computers in the usual way by typing on a keyboard.  Individuals who cannot type effectively due to weakness, paralysis or lack of fine motor control benefit most.  Dragon Naturally Speaking Preferred lets you be more productive.  Speak, and your words appear on-screen and in memos, letters, reports and e-mail.  It learns to recognize your voice in minutes and works with most Windows-based applications.  Dictation shortcuts make it a snap to create documents.  Use dictation playback and text-to-speech for easy revising and proofreading.  (www.scansoft.com)

There are many other adaptations and procedures that are not listed here.  The first step in identifying the best choice is testing different options.  The user should consider his or her performance in independence, stamina, productivity and accuracy.  On top of the keyboard, there are software programs that assist in increasing typing speed.  A combination of software and hardware is often the best match.  Creativity and willingness to try will result in a positive experience.

Jeni Mundl is the Assistive Technology Specialist at Courage Center.