General information

With more than a hundred relatively small and crowded keys and their small print and sometimes low-contrast labels, a standard computer keyboard is a relatively complex device. Operating it can be troublesome for users with limited arm, hand or finger movement ability.

Could this be the end of the clickety clack keyboard as we know it?

According to, dedicating half your laptop to 80-odd keys is such a waste of space — at least, that's the message we're getting from the new Toshiba Libretto W105.

With two 7-inch touchscreens, the 1.2-GHz machine does triple duty as a notebook computer, media player, and e-reader. Juggling serious work? The upper screen presents a typical Windows 7 OS while the lower pane hosts one of six keyboards.

The iPad also has no physical keyboard - although you could plug one if you really wanted one.

More information about Libretto . . .

Toshiba Libretto W105.

Toshiba Libretto laptop

iPad onscreen keyboard

iPad onscreen keyboard

Conventional keyboards

Video Demo of Keyboards and Keyguards

Using a keyguard

Using standard keyboard with motor difficulties

Amputee using a keyboard

Using a keyboard with keyguard and word prediction

Compact Keyboards

Small keyboards can be more easily positioned and are often suited to single handed users. They can fit between the arms of a standard wheelchair. The actual key sizes are fairly similar to a standard keyboard. Space is generally saved by removing the numeric keys and reducing the gaps around the editing and function keys.

If the numeric pad is essential, then it is possible to buy them separately and position them to the left or right as needed.

Compact keyboards are generally smaller in size. They are designed for users with smaller hands or limited range of motion, and may have smaller keys, a lower number of them or an alternative key layout.

Some feature a built-in track ball and wrist rest. Often, the alphanumeric keys and a toggle/lock button replace the functionality of a separate numeric pad. Certain compact keyboards are also designed for use with a head/mouth stick.
Cherry G84 Compact KeyboardCherry Number Pad
Compact Keyboard

Compact keyboard (source: Infogrip


These are plastic or metal plates, placed over the keys of a keyboard, with holes through which the user presses the keys. This is useful for people who tend to hit more than one key at a time or need to rest before pressing the next key. Kyguards generally tend to come with keyboards as a pair, but sometimes one from one keyboard model will fit another model. What you have to consider is how the holes sit over the individual keys. Laptop keyguards are harder to find. The image below is taken from the website of Computer für Behinderte who appear to be able to supply a guard for any make of laptop. For the best fit, they ask that they have the laptop for a day (this service probably only practical for customers in Germany).

Keyguards for keyboards
Compact with guard
Image source: Computer für Behinderte
Keyguard for laptops
Laptop keyguard
Image source: Computer für Behinderte

Ergonomic Keyboards

Ergonomic keyboards are aimed at those wanting to touch type using both hands. Generally they incorporate a split between keys operated by each hand with the aim of reducing strain in wrists and arms. A number of variations on this design are available, including those pictured above.

Fujitsu Butterfly Keyboard
Maltron Ergonomic Keyboard
Maltron Keyboards

Ergonomic KeyboardThe DataHand

The DataHand keyboard is not a chorded keyboard. With three main modes plus a ten-key mode, it has more keys than most other keyboards: 134 keys without counting the ten-key mode, 174 if the ten-key mode is counted.

DataHand keyboardThe DataHand key assignment display is above the fingers, always visible, never covered by the fingers. Each of the modes is differentiated on the display by a different color: green for Normal (alphabetic) mode, blue for Numbers and Symbols mode, yellow for Function and Mouse mode, and red for Ten-key mode.
The user's fingers move less than half an inch in each direction. More info and images . . .

Using the DataHand keyboard

The 'SafeType' keyboardSafeType

The 'SafeType' keyboard claims to place the user in a position that is completely 'Orthopedically Neutral'.

They say,". . . only keyboard demonstrated in a Major University Study to virtually eliminate the high-stress postures that contribute to Repetitive Stress Injuries, such as Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. If you stand with your arms relaxed at your sides, and use only the biceps to bring your hands up and forward until your forearms are parallel to the floor, you are now in the most relaxed typing position possible, with your palms facing each other. That is the position you are in when typing with the SafeType KeyboardTM.

It's certainly an usual design, in which the user's hands are in a kind of 'holding something' position. Mirrors placed forward of the hands allows the user to see which keys are being pressed.

YogiType keyboardYogiType

The 'YogiType' keyboard is a similar idea to the SafeType. The main differences:

  • * the position of the hands
  • * individual keys light up when pressed from behind - no need for mirrors.
  • * all weight is taken off the wrists, which sit in soft supports alongside the keyboard.
  • * integrated mouse, with scrolling function

More information . . .

Expanded keyboards

Win King Keyboard with internal KeyguardIntellikeys keyboard with 3 overlays

Expanded keyboards can help in situations where it is difficult to accurately locate a normal sized keytop. The larger size gives more area to "aim at". Many expanded keyboards have a "built-in guard" as the letters are slightly sunk beneath the surface of the keyboard.

Intellikeys keyboardIntelliKeys USB plugs into the computer's USB port. It is a flat membrane keyboard which is pressure sensitive and is particularly usefull for people who:

- have mild tremors - the slide and press action is helpful,
- have dexterity and sight difficulties;
- need to use a guard and find the larger key size helpful

It comes with a number of "overlays" which define the action of areas on the surface of the board. Because the surface is flat, it can be operated with a 'slide and press' action. You can change layouts "on the fly". In addition you can design your own layouts. This can be useful if you only want to work with a small number of keys. A trainer or teacher simply slides an overlay over its programmable surface to create keyboards for different students and curriculum areas. The universal design of the overlays provides large, well-spaced keys in highcontrast colors to help students locate letters, numbers, words, and directional arrows. More information > . . .

Introduction to Intellikeys

Using the Intellikeys keyboard to access the web:

Young student with cerebral palsy using Intellikeys

In case of severe motor impairments the use of a standard keyboard with a keyguard is often insufficient. For these computer users an expanded keyboard may be a powerful aid. An expanded keyboard prevents unintentional activation of one or more than one key at a time by well spaced, enlarged and slightly recessed keys and allows the user to stabilize limb on keyboard without activating keys. (Info and images:Computer für Behinderte).

sumo2000 keyboard
Sumo2000 Expanded keyboard and Mouse emulator
image of an M42 keyboard
M42 mouse emulator
Mouse emulator with mini joystick
Mouse emulator with mini joystick

See more innovative products from Computer für Behinderte . . .

Expanded Keyboard
Expanded keyboard with keyguard (Source: Maltron)

Expanded Keyboard for children
Expanded keyboards for use with children (Source:Zuim)

Concept keyboards are also flat and pressure sensitive. These come in A4 and A3 sizes and have a number of predefined "cells" on their surface. Using a software package it is possible to assign certain keystrokes/sounds/actions to particular areas on the concept keyboard. After defining the areas on the keyboard, a paper overlay can be printed or drawn to show the active areas.

ZoomText Large Print keyboard.

Large print keyboard screenshotThe new ZoomText Large-Print Keyboard provides large, high-contrast lettering that’s easy to see, even in low light conditions.

The ZoomText Keyboard also includes 16 programmable feature keys, allowing you to access your favorite ZoomText, Internet and multimedia commands with the touch of a button. Used with ZoomText Magnifier or ZoomText Magnifier/Reader, your low-vision computer workstation is complete.

More about the ZoomText large print keyboard . . .

HelpiKeys keyboard.

Designed to meet the needs of learning and physical challenged individuals. Helpikeys is also beneficial for visual or cognitive disabilities. It's a programmable alternative keyboard which can be changed by using one of the five overlay sheets, or by using the Helipkeys Layout Builder software that allows you to design and print your own keyboard layouts. More information > . . .

Helpikeys keyboard

Large Key Keyboards

Keyboards with larger keys can help in situations where it is difficult to accurately locate a standard sized keytop. The larger size gives more area to aim at. Some have a built in guard as the letters are slightly sunk beneath the surface of the keyboard.

Vision Keyboard

Vision keyboardThe Vision board keyboard is black, features 1 inch square, white keys, with large bold, black upper case legends and all the punctuation found on a standard UK keyboard. Ideal for the visually impaired, children and those with large hands/fingers.

Has a 2 port USB hub, built in. The keyboard also has all 12 function keys.

Big Keys LX

Big keys LX keyboard

Image: Inclusive Technology

Jumbo Colour Keyboard

Jumbo Colour keyboardThe Jumbo keyboard has large, colourful, and easy to read keys. The function keys have been moved off to the side, which helps avoid unwelcome inputs from busy hands. The large keys make locating letters much easier. (PS2 connection)

Supplier: TTS Group
Jumbo XL

Jumbo XL keyboard

One Handed Keyboards

Maltron one handed keyboard
One-handed keyboards allow for typing with only one hand. One-handed keyboards often have special shapes and letter layouts. There are also software programmes that allow the user to type on a standard keyboard with minimal movement. The image is of a Maltron left handed keyboard.

Matias Halfkey keyboard
Matias half keyboard
(image source: TechReady)

The FrogPad

Photo of FrogpadA one-handed keyboard which enables its user to hold documents, tools or other items while entering information on a PDA, Pocket PC, smart phone, laptop or other mobile device.
Both the layout and use of full-size keys contribute to overall ease of use and small size.

The ergonomics have apparently been shown to significantly shorten learning time compared with the traditional QWERTY layout. As many users do not touch type but use a “hunt and peck” approach, the FrogPad presents an opportunity for faster keyboard input.

More about the Frogpad . . .

Cykey keyboardThe CyKey keyboard.

The CyKey is what is often referred to as a Chord keyboard. These have only a few keys and rely on keys being pressed in combination to generate letters. They therefore work well for single handed users with independent movement in each of their fingers.
The CyKey is a wireless device that uses the MicroWriting Chord key system to input data. It can be used with many Palm PDA's, or with an Infrared Receiver, with almost any computer (in support of the normal keyboard). Could also be used with the feet.
More information about CyKey . . .

Image of WinMini keyboardWinMini

A mini keyboard designed for use by isomeone with limited upper extremity range of motion, with use of only one hand, or who fatigue easily. This keyboard plugs directly into the keyboard port of the computer and requires no special software. Available in a choice of the standard QWERTY layout or a frequency of use layout with the most frequently used letters placed toward the center of the keyboard, this unit features closely-spaced membrane keys for easier access. Audible feedback is provided when a key is pressed.

Image of BAT keyboardBAT one handed keyboard

Infogrip's BAT Keyboard is a one-handed, compact input device that replicates all the functions of a full-size keyboard, but with greater efficiency and convenience. The BAT is apparently easy to learn and use. Letters, numbers, commands and macros are simple key combinations, "chords,".

The BAT's ergonomic design reduces hand strain and fatigue for greater comfort and productivity. The BAT is a good typing solution for persons with physical or visual impairments and is proven to increase productivity when used with graphic or desktop publishing software.

Supplier . . .

One Hand Resources

Foot operated keyboards

PJB Systems designed foot operated keyboard. The keyboard layout is not QWERTY and can be modified to suit particular needs.

  • Half the number of keys compared to a standard keyboard, but has two layers.
  • The characters for Layer 1 are displayed on the top half of the keys and the characters for Layer 2 are on the bottom.
  • Pressing the LAYER key allows for fast switching from Layer 1 to Layer 2 and visa versa.
  • Three keys emulate the mouse and a trackball is included to work in conjunction with these keys (these are the only keys that could not be moved around).
  • The keyboard casing is made of aluminium to reduce weight and to make it more portable but heavy enough to prevent it slipping
  • Sealed switches prevent the ingress of dust and dirt but allow for easy cleaning. The unit also has a removable front panel
  • All switches sit sub-flush to the front panel which means the foot can rest when typing without knocking the switches
The keyboard can be made to order and costings would depend on any modifications required.

PJB systems foot operated keyboard

PJB Keyboard
PJB systems foot operated keyboard

PJB Keyboard
PJB systems foot operated keyboard

PJB Keyboard
Dave Williams at his keyboard

The PJB systems keyboard is used by Dave Williams (see photo), who commented, " PJB provided a first class service. They provided me with a high quality keyboard which meets my requirements perfectly. They look great and already my typing speed has improved. The new keyboards you supplied are great. I am definitely faster with them..”

For more information about the keyboard and price, contact Sharon Simmonds at PJB Systems on 01229 826156 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting01229 826156end_of_the_skype_highlighting

Miscellaneous keyboards and Peripherals

orbitouchorbiTouch Keyless keyboard is a keyless ergonomic keyboard solution that removes the barrier posed by the traditional keyboard/mouse combination. People who may benefit include those with repetitive stress injuries such as carpal tunnel syndrome , other hand and finger injuries, limited fine motor skills, reduced finger function and other cognitive and physical challenges. The orbiTouch® Keyless creates a keystroke when you slide the two domes into one of their eight respective positions. You type the different characters by sliding the domes to create letters and numbers. The orbiTouch® also has an integrated mouse, so moving the domes gives you full mouse and keyboard capability. More information about the orbiTouch . . .
Y-Mouse serial adapterThe Y-mouse Serial Mouse Adapter is the fast and simple way to attach two pointing devices to one computer. With this small, easy to use, Y-shaped adapter you don't have to open your computer or install any software, just plug it in and you're ready to go. Dual PS/2 mouse, Dual Tablet and Mouse, Dual Keyboard and Dual Monitor adapters also available. (Source: Ergosci)

The MyKids Keyboard

MyKids keyboard
Link to MyKids supplier . . .

Rubber keyboard coverHere is an example of a waterproof keyboard which is made out of rubber. It is designed to work in harsh environments, and can be wiped clean after use.
Waterproof SMART Rubber Keyboard

If you prefer to use a standard keyboard, there are many plastic covers available which can be fitted over the top of the keys.

Maltron Mouth Stick keyboardMaltron Mouth Stick Keyboard
The shape of the Maltron Single Finger/Mouth Stick Keyboard matches natural head movement and the key arrangement minimizes finger or stick activity, raising speed and relieving frustration. (Source: iShopergonomics).

Device for one handed Ctrl+Alt+Del logging on (before sticky keys can be activated)

One handed ctrl+alt+del tool

Image source: Gizmodo

DIY adapted Cherry keyboard !

DIY adapted keyboard

More information about this DIY keyboard . . .

FingerWorks TouchStream LP Zero-Force Keyboard.

Fingerworks LPThe FingerWorks zero-force "keys" require no pressure (which may lessen possible repetitive strain injury type damage).

The built in "mouse" is a great timesaver and again can help prevent RSI, the gestures put dozens, maybe hundreds, of shortcuts literally at your fingertips.

It's available both in DVORAK and QWERTY configurations.
More information . . .

Review of the FingerWorks LP keyboard

Using the FingerWorks Keyboard

Split Keyboards

Also referred to as 'Butterfly' keyboards. There is the GoldTouch the Kinesis the Fujitsu Siemens and the BTC-8120

Goldtouch keyboard
BTC-8120 split keyboard


Key Ovation is the manufacturer of the Goldtouch line of ergonomic and security computer peripherals technology.

The Goldtouch product line includes ErgoSuite, which is a bundling of ergonomically designed computer accessories for the desktop , including mice, mouse pads , numeric devices and gel-filled wrist pads.

Kinesis FreeStyle Convertible Keyboard

The Evoluent Keyboard

Using the GoldTouch

Elexia Keyboard

The Elexia in action

Elexia keyboardThe Elexia Keyboard - The keyboard of many colours.The keyboard is being developed by BabelTech Ltd and was designed to aid typing skills for those with dyslexia, visual difficulties and to help prevent migraines or headaches. It was demonstrated at Bett 2008 and has been tried by members of the Nottingham Dyslexia Association.

The Elexia keyboard is unique, in that It has translucent keys that are back lit in any choice of colours with any mix of red, green and blue. This combination results in a huge range and depth of colours in various shades.

The keys have small lights beneath them which apparently produce up to '1.6 million colour' variations. The colour combinations are adjusted via three dials on the side of the keyboard, Individuals can save their chosen combinations, via the accompanying software, and they can be adapted at any time to suit user preferences. The keyboard connects via USB, but currently requires it's own power source. It is still in prototype and under development.

For more information about the Elexia, contact BabelTech on Tel. 0115 8781580 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting0115 8781580end_of_the_skype_highlighting

LOMAK keyboardLOMAK (Light Operated Mouse And Keyboard) enables people with physical impairments, such as cerebral palsy, quadriplegia and carpal tunnel syndrome, to easily and effectively operate a computer. Using a specially designed keyboard in conjunction with state-of-the-art light sensor technology, a hand or head pointer controls a beam of light that enters, then confirms, the key or mouse function. Confirming each key helps ensure the correct selection is entered, reducing errors and increasing the speed of operation. Pure geometric forms and soft radii support its simplicity and ease of use.
More information . . .

Changing from Qwerty to Dvorak

The Dvorak keyboard layout, designed for speed and efficiency by Dr. August Dvorak in the 1930s, can increase typing speed and decrease finger fatigue. It places all the vowels in the left hand of the home row and the most commonly used consonants in the right hand of the home row. Because the frequently-used letters are right there underneath your fingertips and the next most common are directly above, typing involves much less reaching. In this sample paragraph, 70% of the letters are on the home row in Dvorak, with 15% top and 15% bottom. In QWERTY 30% are on the home row. Beware, it takes a little getting used to, especially if you're transitioning from a standard QWERTY.


Change to Dvorak on Windows XP

  1. Select Start->Control Panel.
  2. If you're viewing by categories (the default), click Date, Time, Language, and Regional Options.
  3. Click Regional and Language Options.
  4. Click the Languages tab
  5. Click the Details button
  6. Click the Add button
  7. Under Keyboard Layout/IME, select United States-Dvorak (or Left- or Right-handed), then click OK.
  8. If you want it to be default, select United States-Dvorak again in the Default input language pull-down
  9. Click OK to close the control panel.
(Source: ).
Changing to the Dvorak layout

Keyboard Accessories

Mouth Stick
Photo of someone using a mouthstick

EuroMedical mouthsticks
Maltron mouth stick keyboard
Maltron Mouthstick keyboard
Using a laptop with a mouthstick

Adjustable-angle mouth sticks that allow better visibility and a more natural writing/typing position. One is a pointer for keyboards or page turning; the other holds implements such as a pen, pencil or paintbrush. The telescopic end makes it easier to adjust the length. (Mouthstick supplier: EuroMedical)

Keyboard Resources

AT Keyboard Suppliers

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