Split Onscreen Keyboard
Split Onscreen Keyboard Review
- Name of the technology: Split Onscreen Keyboard
- Link: http://education.gsu.edu/physicaldis/use_of_a_split_onscreen_keyboard.htm
- Price: NA
- Minimal physical requirements: The patient has to be able to move his hands freely.
Some students with physical disabilities cannot access a keyboard even with adaptations (e.g. larger keyboard, use of a key guard). For some students, an onscreen keyboard allows access to typing that the student would not otherwise have. Onscreen keyboards are generally accessed with input devices such as a mouse, trackball, or joystick. Typically, the mouse movements can be slowed down so that a student who has limited control of the input device can access an onscreen keyboard. However, onscreen keyboards usually have over 30 “buttons” or sites (26 letters, commands, punctuation). This means that each site must be somewhat small and there is generally very little space between sites. If the student does not have enough motor control to make precision movements, he or she may have difficulty accessing an onscreen keyboard with small, crowded sites.
An input method that is growing in use is the head-controlled mouse emulator. Head-controlled mouse emulators are devices that allow the student to control mouse movements through head movements. Usually, students wear a reflective dot which is placed on their forehead. Head movements are recognized by a receiver that is typically located at the top of the computer screen. Generally, the mouse cursor movements can be adjusted to allow for a user with smaller, larger, or less controlled head movements. However, because of the size of the sites and the lack of space between them on an onscreen keyboard, access with a head-controlled mouse emulator can be difficult or impossible for some users.
One solution to allow for access to a keyboard for students with less controlled physical movements on an input device or for students who are using a head-controlled mouse emulator is to split the keyboard into multiple sections. This allows for each site to be larger and for some space surrounding each site. Several programs offer onscreen keyboards which can be modified or made to suit an individual user. For example, A through M may be on one board and N through Z on another. Each board contains a button that links to the other. Onscreen keyboards usually contain commands (print, save), punctuation, and numbers. These can be located on separate boards with links from each of the board containing letters. By placing these on separate boards, letter size can be maximized.
The example included here was created using Speaking Dynamically Pro. The keyboard that comes as a sample board in this program was modified to break the keyboard up into three separate boards with a separate popup board for numbers. One board has letters A through M. The next has letters N through Z. The third board has punctuation and commands such as “save,” and “print.” All boards have functions across the top in a consistent location (space, shift, backspace, return) because these are needed frequently when using a keyboard. Each board has buttons to link to the other boards. To keep the alphabet in order and present all letters so that the student does not have to remember which letters are on each board, the buttons to link to the other half of the alphabet contain all letters which can be located on that page. For example, on the board containing A-M, each letter through M is on its own separate button with some space between each. After M, there is a larger button with “nopqrstuvwxyz” which links to the second half of the alphabet. Each board also has a button to open the number popup board and a button which links back to the user’s main board. Most buttons are located toward the center of the board because students using head-controlled mouse emulators often have difficulty activating sites near the outer edges of a board. The button linking back to the main board is located here to prevent accidental activation. Slightly different background colors were used to help the user quickly distinguish which board he or she is using.