Often technology is not designed with the full diversity of users in mind and therefore alternative keyboard layouts allow people who experience difficulty accessing conventional keyboard designs to use computers. Sometimes adjustments can be made to the accessibility options of the computer, for example, changing the sensitivity of the keyboard. On other occasions, it is necessary to get a different keyboard.
Ergonomic keyboards are the most popular keyboards available. The ergonomic design of the keyboard allows for minimal muscle strain and may reduce the risk of a repetitive strain injury. A fixed-split keyboard has keys separated in 2 – 3 groups, allowing the user to type at different angles than the typical straight keyboard. An adjustable split keyboard has the keyboard split in a number of pieces so the angle can be easily changed.
There are a wide range of other keyboard options and accessories for people who have specific needs including but not limited to the following:
- Large print keyboards
- Large key keyboards
- Colourful keyboards
- Keyboards with different layouts, e.g., QWERTY, ABC, Dvorak
- Miniature keyboard
- Expanded keyboards
- One-handed keyboard
- Chording keyboard
- Keyboards that allow the keys to be programmed to perform certain functions
- Keyboards that allow you to create customized overlays that you can print out. The layout allows you to add or delete keys, add text or graphics to keys, group keys by colour or location and increase visual contrast by changing the key size and colour.
- Illuminated keyboard
- Braille keyboard
- Keyboard Seals or Skins
- Keycap labels
Points to Ponder
Questions to consider when choosing an alternative keyboard
- Is it compatible with your computer's platform?
- Is it programmable?
- What kind of connection is it? E.g., USB, keyboard port, wireless, PS2, etc.
- How do you want the keys to be arranged, i.e., is it QWERTY, ABC or Dvorak layout? Can it be adjusted?
- What is the size of the keys? How many keys are available on the keyboard?
- Is the keyboard design fixed, split or adjustable?
- Is a keyguard needed? Is it available?
- Are the keys recessed or do they protrude?
- Is it handheld?
- Is the angle of the keyboard adjustable?
- Does it have its own mount?
- For programmable keyboards, does it have different overlays? How easily can you create macro commands?
- How much force is required for key activation?
Manufacturers of Alternative Keyboards
Did you know? That there are built in keyboard features available for free on your computer. Learn more about the accessibility features of your computer here.