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Last Updated: 10/31/2017
 

Article of Interest - Assistive Tech

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Before You Consider Adaptive Technology: Options for One Hand Typing and Keyboarding
by Lilly Walters, best selling author, and one hand typist.
For more articles like this visit http://www.bridges4kids.org.

 
Those of us in rehabilitation therapy help children and adults with disabilities enhance their lives, increase their independence and productivity. Teaching keyboarding is one of the most basic, and useful skills needed to succeed in the workplace and in school. In addition, practicing the keyboard can help people regain or improve motor skills in their hands.

In our world of terrific technologies, we happily embrace the new alternatives. But there is something glaringly wrong in that circle of embrace for the one hand typist.

When considering which alternative is best, you must answer these questions first:

  • How fast will the user be able to type once they are accomplished?

  • How long will it take them to learn?

  • Will the manufacturer of the alternative be around in 10 years?

  • Will the user stay with the alternative? Or will the prefer to 'fit in' with their peers who either do not use a keyboard, or hunt and peck slowly on the normal keyboard?

I have seven books in the marketplace. I typed every word myself, and I use one hand on a NORMAL keyboard (no adaptive equipment). I am filled with a great deal of smug pride when I see members of my work team - who are all two handed - struggling with a task on the computer, and I am able to walk right over to their keyboards and say, "Here, let me show you how ... " A feeling I would not have if an alternative to the normal keyboard had been pushed on me as a child.

Although I don't even like to mention them (because I feel strongly only two options should be suggested) for those with a hand disability there are actually many alternatives to consider for those who have good use of one hand.

I'll divide these into four categories. If the one handed user wishes to become adept at using a keyboard, and possibly pursuing technology careers that center around this important skill, you need to know what these options are. Perhaps you too will arrive at my conclusions, and discard all but the two I have come to embrace: One Hand QWERTY, and Half QWERTY.
 
THE FOUR CATEGORIES OF ONE HAND KEYBOARDING OPTIONS

  1. Use the standard keyboard - One Hand QWERTY

  2. One hand adaptive/alternative keyboards (like Half QWERTY, Maltron, and the Bat)

  3. Alternative keyboard layouts (like Half QWERTY and One Hand Dvorak)

  4. Voice activation/voice recognition software

1) The Standard keyboard - One Hand QWERTY

 
QWERTY is the term used for the standard keyboard used by 99% of the English speaking world (see the keys on your keyboard starting at the Q in the upper left corner.) One Hand QWERTY takes the one strong hand, and has it use FGHJ as home base. The thumb operates the space bar. If possible, the less able hand operates the mouse, TAB and SHIFT. This system allows the user to compete in any mainstream environment. The user can go to any computer, at work or at play, and operate the keyboard normal immediately. They are able to look over the shoulder of their two-handed friends, reach down, and offer assistance. Users obtain from 30 - 80 wpm. There are two one handed manuals available in the market place, $20 - $49, see Amazon.com or your bookstore) There are also FREE downloads of the first 39 pages of - The One Hand Typing and Keyboarding Manual: With Personal Motivational Messages From Others Who Have Overcome! - http://www.aboutonehandtyping.com/manual.html

2) One Hand Adaptive/Alternative Keyboards

 
There are many devices and alternative keyboards that can be used to enter data into a computer, the most popular are the Half QWERTY Keyboard, the BAT, and the Maltron. Half Qwerty is my choice out of all of these, but **ONLY** for those who were speed touch typists BEFORE their disability. Speeds obtained on these are about the same as using One Hand Qwerty. ($295 - $1000 see http://www.aboutonehandtyping.com/bat.html

3) Alternative Keyboard Layouts

 
Many have looked for alternatives to QWERTY to ease the strain on the typist's hands. The two most well known are Dvoark, and Half-QWERTY. Both are faster, and easier on the hands of the typist, but not necessarily smarter, as they are not used in the workplace. (Dvoark is free, Half-QWERTY is, $99 see Adaptive Devices above) Dvorak takes all of keys on a normal keyboard, and moves them around to different positions on the keyboard, to positions in which are supposedly easier to use.


Half-QWERTY has the strong hand do what is already been trained to do, assuming the user was a speed touch typist before the disability. It cuts the keyboard in HALF. This half of the keyboard then does double duty. The missing half of the keyboard is done by the good hand, on the half of the keyboard the good hand uses. The space bar is used when the missing key need to be typed. For more, see http://www.aboutonehandtyping.com/dvorak.html)

4) Voice Activation/Voice Recognition Software

 
Using voice recognition software, the user speaks into a microphone, and the software transcribes the users words from the verbal dictation. Voice Activation will soon be a great tool when used AFTER a good understanding of the standard keyboard is learned. Just as the student must learn to read, before they are allowed to use books or tapes as their form of "reading," the student must learn to keyboard, before they use voice activation as their main data inputting device. Otherwise the user will not be able to operate in environments that use only common equipment, i.e., the library, the workplace, at play with friends, etc.

 
QUESTIONS TO ASK BEFORE HELPING YOUR CUSTOMER DECIDE ON A ONE HANDED TYPING SYSTEM

Before the one handed person makes a decision which alternative is best for them, ask these questions:

When considering which alternative is best, you must answer these questions first:
 

  • How fast will the user be able to type once they are accomplished?

  • How long will it take them to learn?

  • Will the manufacturer of the alternative be around in 10 years?

  • Will the user stay with the alternative? Or will the prefer to 'fit in' with their peers who either do not use a keyboard, or hunt and peck slowly on the normal keyboard?

  • Is the "good" hand strong? Can it take the burden normally shared by two hands?

  • Will the reason the hand/arm is disabled go away with time? Perhaps an injury that will heal?

  • Does this person work on their own - perhaps they are retired or an entrepreneur? Will they need to use other people's computers, or will others need to use their computer?

  • Was the user a speed touch typist before the disability?

Let's explore each of those issues for the One Handed Typist:

HOW FAST WILL THE USER BE ABLE TO TYPE ONCE THEY ARE ACCOMPLISHED?

 

Speed of the accomplished one handed typists seems to be about the same on all of the systems available. In theory, those using One Handed Dvorak should be faster. But there are just not enough people who went on with One Handed Dvorak to confirm that theory.

I, for instance, use the normal keyboard, I do 40 to 80 wpm (depending on the amount of sleep and coffee I have in my system!).

HOW LONG WILL IT TAKE THEM TO LEARN?


Learning time will be fastest for those who never were speed touch typists if they use the normal keyboard and One Hand Qwerty. Most people have at least played with a normal keyboard, and have a vague idea where the keys are.

 

Learning time will be faster for those who WERE speed touch typist with two hands before their disability if they use Half Qwerty.

WILL THE MANUFACTURER OF THE ALTERNATIVE BE AROUND IN 10 YEARS?

Of course we are guessing at this. But if we look at the lifespan of the average small computer manufacturer, then we have cause to worry. What will your user do if they are trained on an alternative, which eventually breaks down, and the company is gone? Well, they will go back to the normal Qwerty keyboard and start over. One thing is fairly certain, when the starship Enterprise really does launch, there is going to be a QWERTY keyboard on board.

WILL THE USER STAY WITH THE ALTERNATIVE? OR WILL THE PREFER TO 'FIT IN' WITH THEIR PEERS WHO EITHER DO NOT USE A KEYBOARD, OR HUNT AND PECK SLOWLY ON THE NORMAL KEYBOARD?

 
I do a survey every few years, the last was to over 9000 people: OT's, teachers, amputees, and many others with disabilities. I asked them, "Of any of the people you know, who were taught to use an alternatives to a normal keyboard, how many are now actually using that alternative in the workplace?" Two people.


It seems to me that 99% of those trained on one of these alternatives leave them in the closet, and instead hunt and peck on a NORMAL keyboard. Why? Because the majority of two handed people in most workplaces, in schools, and at play, are just hunt and pecking anyway. Our one-handed can get the same speed as his two handed friends. Why should he use an adaptive device and forever be put in the position of being "different"? Since our one handed user is going to use a normal keyboard, regardless of what he was taught in rehab, why not spend that precious time learning to have competitive touch typing skills? Then, our one handed friend can be the fastest, most competent person, regardless on the number of hands he has!

IS THE "GOOD" HAND STRONG? CAN IT TAKE THE BURDEN NORMALLY SHARED BY TWO HANDS?

 
If one hand has good usage, then, although harder on the hands, the standard ONE HAND QWERTY is perhaps the best choice for two reasons.  One: value in the job market.  The reality is, the easier it is to bring someone into the workplace, the more appealing they are as an employee.  Two: Self value.  Selecting an alternative keyboard makes a user feel apart from their peer group. Being adept at the tool the others use at work and at play, the standard keyboard, gives their self esteem and self value a tremendous boost.

WILL THE REASON THE HAND/ARM IS DISABLED GO AWAY WITH TIME? PERHAPS AN INJURY
THAT WILL HEAL?

Only learn any one hand method if you are sure there will never have enough coordination with the affected hand to type in the standard two handed method.

DOES THIS PERSON WORK ON THEIR OWN - PERHAPS THEY ARE RETIRED OR AN
ENTREPRENEUR? WILL THEY NEED TO USE OTHER PEOPLE'S COMPUTERS, OR WILL OTHERS NEED TO
USE THEIR COMPUTER?

If possible, avoid alternatives if our user plans to share a computer at work or at play. If not, and if the idea of a "different" keyboard intrigues them, then an adaptive device might be just the thing to add the element of fun to their training and encourage them to carry on until they become adept.

WAS THE USER A SPEED TOUCH TYPIST BEFORE THE DISABILITY?

If you can catch a former two handed speed touch typist within six months of the disability, use the HALF QWERTY SYSTEM. If they were NOT a speed touch typist before the disability, then always suggest they use the keyboard as is! This is One Hand QWERTY: the one hand centering on FGHJ learns to touch type.

IN SUMMARY
 
For all of those 25 years of age and under, and for those who were not speed touch typists with two hands within the past six months: Use One Hand Qwerty - uses a normal keyboard with the normal layout
 
Those who were speed touch typed with two hands within the past six months: Use Half Qwerty - cuts the keyboard in half, and uses an alternative layout for the missing keys.
 
Those who will regain full use of the disabled hand. Suggest they study 10 key skills until the disabled hand heals. Do not bother to teach them a one hand typing method.
 
Always try to help the one handed person use the tools commonly found at work and at play. Give them the ability to breeze into the workplace or school with confidence. Once there, they will have the typing skills to say to their two handed co-workers, "Oh here, let me show you how ... "
 

Lilly Walters,
About One Hand Typing and Keyboarding
aka ABC Schermerhorn Walters Co.
http://www.aboutonehandtyping.com

FOR FREE MONTHLY E-NEWS CLICK HERE: http://www.aboutonehandtyping.com/enews.html

FOR INFO: 909-398-1228.

TO PLACE AN ORDER: http://www.aboutonehandtyping.com/order.html

Join e-mail discussions: http://www.aboutonehandtyping.com/discuss.html

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Did you know there are an estimated 12 million people in the USA with a disability of the hand or arm?
There are millions more in law enforcement, and computer related fields who would have a great advantage by being able to use the NORMAL keyboard with one hand.

 

Reprinted with permission.
(c) Lilly Walters, 2003, may only be used or duplicated with permission. Phone 909-398-1228; E-mail Lilly@aboutonehandtyping.com; http://www.aboutonehandtyping.com

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