Keyboard Adaptations

UDL 4.1 UDL 4.2

Keyboard Adaptations refer to any change to software or hardware that enables people with specific disabilities to use a keyboard for word processing and other computer functions. Keyboard Adaptations increase accessibility to technology for those with barriers related to fine and gross motor functions as well as cognitive or visual impairment. Universal design features in many operating systems as well as other add-on applications change how a computer responds to the use of keys (e.g. simplified keyboard functions, delayed responsiveness, increased push sensitivity). Similarly, physical adaptations to the keyboard itself can increase access for some individuals by changing the layout, mechanical action or the appearance.

Implementation Tips

Creating an Inclusive Classroom Culture
Minimize the stigma for students using Keyboard Adaptations by having a variety of adaptive equipment and technology (e.g. slant boards, specialized paper and pencils, tablets, keyboards) available to all students in the class. When possible encourage students with individualized equipment to show classmates how their devices work and/or allow them to give them a try.
Collaborating with Specialists
Team up with other staff who have expertise in technology, including the occupational therapist or other technology specialists. Classroom consultations and equipment trials are the best way to ensure that the best options are chosen to meet the specific needs of particular students.
Introducing Keyboard Adaptations
Inform students about the purpose of each Keyboard Adaptation. Teachers can create a Keyboard Adaptation anchor chart with an image and the purpose. Try introducing students to each type of adaptation through stations, students can take note how to use them and their level of preference for each adaptation.
Limitations of One-Handed Keyboards
Make every effort for students who have the functional use of only one hand to learn to use a conventional keyboard, especially in the lower grades. If students become too dependent on a modified device early on, it will limit their access to technology when the specific device is not available over their lifetime. Work with the Occupational Therapist to determine if and when a student will need a modified keyboard. There are many designs of one-handed keyboards that the team can explore. Visit [[|One-Handed Keyboard Reviews ]] for more information.


[[|Keyguards]] are rigid plastic overlays that raise up the space between the keys on a conventional keyboard. This enables a person with poor hand and finger control to slide a finger into a depression to strike a key, reducing random unintended key strikes. Since a keyguard is portable and not affixed to the keyboard, the student can use it in a variety of places (e.g. classroom, computer lab, home).
Keyboards with Larger Keys
[[|Larger keys]] can make it easier to locate letters. Keyboards with larger keys often come with high contrast backgrounds, making them especially helpful for students with low vision. Some also come with the keys slightly sunken below the surface, similar to a keyguard for students with poor fine motor control.
Ergonomic Keyboards
[[|Ergonomic keyboards]] are designed to give users a more efficient and comfortable hand position than a flat keyboard. They are available from most computer retailers. Students with or without fine motor challenges may benefit from an ergonomic keyboard or typing station (i.e. furniture size and position, screen height, wrist rests, etc.). As students get to higher grades, and the demand for longer compositions goes up, an ergonomic set-up will be even more helpful to prevent hand fatigue or repetitive stress injuries.
Sticky Keys
Keyboard keys can be made “sticky” by changing a setting in computer settings to remove the need for holding down two keys at the same time (e.g. changing numbers into symbols using the shift key, copy/paste). Students with both motor and cognitive limitations can benefit from this simplification of performing some computer key functions. Instructions to enable Sticky Keys: [[|Windows]] and [[|Mac]]. For other operating systems, consult your technology specialist or computer handbook for more information.
Slow Keys
Keyboard keys can be made “slow” (i.e. Filter Keys) by increasing the amount of time a key needs to be depressed before it produces a letter. This setting can be found in the keyboard section under computer settings of most operating systems. This reduces the number of unintentionally typed letters caused by random, uncontrolled hand or finger movement. Instructions to enable Slow Keys: [[|Windows]] and [[|Mac]]. For other operating systems, consult your technology specialist or computer handbook for more information.

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