Monday, March 3, 2014

Alternative Keyboards

For many people, when they hear the word keyboard they think of a standard computer keyboard with an arrangement of letters and numbers.  However, students with disabilities may see keyboards differently, as they may use alternative keyboards to help them gain access to computers.  These alternative keyboards fall under major categories, including, expanded keyboards, mini-keyboards, one-handed keyboards, and on-screen keyboards.

Expanded Keyboards
  • These keyboards are enlarged or oversized and benefit students with poor fine motor control who need a large target area to execute a keystroke.  

  • Mini-keyboards are smaller than the standard keyboard; are beneficial for students with motor impairments such as restriction with range of motion. This alternative keyboard would be great for students with muscular dystrophy and spinal muscular atrophy.

One-Handed Keyboards
  • One-Handed keyboards are used for individuals who have good finger dexterity but use of only one hand.  There are a variety of one-handed keyboards, including, half-QWERTY keyboards, Dvorak keyboard layout, and Chorded keyboards.  Half-QWERTY keyboards allow individuals to use one-handed touch typing with the left hand; users hold down the space bar with their thumb to type the keys normally typed with the right hand.  Dvorak keyboard layout "places the most frequently used keys in the home-row position" (Dell, 2012).  Chorded keyboards has very few keys and are available for either the left or the right hand. 

On-Screen Keyboards
  • On-Screen keyboards "place an image of the keyboard on the computer monitor" allowing the individual to select letters and functions by clicking on them with a mouse or any mouse alternatives.  On-Screen keyboards provide computer access to students who have motor skills that are necessary to use when typing, but can control a mouse, as well as help students have have difficulty with visually refocusing when they transfer their attention from the monitor to the keyboard.  


Dell, A.G., Newton, D.A., Petroff, J.G. (2012).  Assistive Technology in the Classroom; Enhancing the School Experiences of Students with Disabilities. 2nd Edition. 

1 comment:

  1. Lauren,

    Great job explaining the various keyboards. I especially liked how you added in a lot of pictures to show how each of these keyboards looks. As you teach students with mild to moderate disabilities, have you ever encountered a student who could benefit from one of these?