Special access technology chapter 7 on screen keyboards
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Special Access Technology Chapter 7 On-screen Keyboards. Kristen Eklund & Jolene Hyppa Martin. Introduction. Later chapters focus on individual areas of on-screen keyboard use Our chapter introduces many terms relating to this topic

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Special access technology chapter 7 on screen keyboards

Special Access TechnologyChapter 7On-screen Keyboards

Kristen Eklund &

Jolene Hyppa Martin


  • Later chapters focus on individual areas of on-screen keyboard use

    • Our chapter introduces many terms relating to this topic

    • Uses terms standardized by the Common Terminology for Switch Controlled Software (ACE Centre, 1990)

    • These terms are shown initially in yellow


  • On-screen keyboards

    • Any keyboard displayed on a computer screen

    • Accessed using pointing devices or switches

    • Not just the “qwerty” keyboard

      • Floating palettes for drawing programs

      • Shortcut menus

      • Toolbars

      • Pull-down menus

      • Clip art menus

      • Specialized pop-up menus

      • “qwerty” keyboard displayed on the screen

      • And much, much more!


  • The items presented for selection by an on-screen keyboard are called a selection set

    • Items are also referred to as:

      • Cell

      • Key

      • Button

    • Selection set is also referred to as:

      • Grid

      • Setup

      • Window

      • Layout

  • When a scanning program is used, a highlighter indicates which item is currently available for selection

Selection sets items highlighting prompts
Selection setsItemsHighlightingPrompts


  • Items in selection sets may be text or graphics or both

  • Items can be selected by:

    • Point and click

    • Dwell

    • Scanning and switch use

  • Goal is to enable user to use standard programs such as:

    • Word processor

    • Database

    • Spreadsheet

    • Drawing programs

    • Games

    • Email

    • Web browser

Who might use an on screen keyboard
Who might use an on-screen keyboard?

  • Early writers

  • People who have difficulty using a keyboard

    • Limited ROM

    • Poor fine and/or gross motor control, but able to use head pointing device (CP)

    • Good head control, but poor limb control (SCI)

    • Combination of physical and other problems

    • Impairments resulting in ability to use only one or two switches

  • Individuals with specific reading or writing difficulty

    • Helped by visual and/or spoken prompts

    • Word prediction

Selection set design layout
Selection Set Design & Layout

  • Arranging the items in the selection set is an important consideration

    • Goal is to choose the best arrangement for client

    • Most programs offer many selection set options

    • Many of those that don’t can be changed by using selection set editor program

Selection set design layout1
Selection Set Design & Layout

  • Some options include:

    • QWERTY keyboard layout

      • Suitable for those familiar with this layout

      • Good for those who need access to all the keys on a standard keyboard

      • Confusing for young users & beginners

      • Unlike actual keyboard, little or no speed advantage of this layout in an onscreen format

    • Alphabetic layout

      • Better for young users and beginners

      • Always faster than “qwerty” for those familiar with alphabet, but not “qwerty”

    • Frequency of use layout

      • Easier & faster

      • Good for those with learning difficulties

Selection set design layout2
Selection Set Design & Layout

  • Word selection sets

  • Phrase selection sets

  • Graphics

  • Pictures

  • Symbols

    • All of these options may include synthetic or digitized speech prompts or other visual/auditory prompts to assist with selection

Selection set appearance
Selection Set Appearance

  • Things to consider:

    • Size

      • Larger items may be necessary, but that decreases total item options

    • Item spacing

      • Items placed further apart may be selected with better accuracy

    • Shape

      • Items arranged in a single line

      • Items arranged in a grid

      • Items arranged in a flip chart

      • Items arranged in a custom design

Selection set appearance1
Selection Set Appearance

  • Frame Style

    • Square

    • Round

    • Button

      • Changing frame can be helpful to differentiate type or function of items

  • Color

    • Aid in visual discrimination

Selection set appearance2
Selection Set Appearance

  • Text Font

    • Lower case is preferred for young children

    • Simple upper/lower case for most adults

      • Rachel’s example in clinic class

  • Highlighting and Prompting

    • Visual

      • Customized foreground/background color or graphic changes

      • Avoid low contrast color combinations

    • Auditory

      • Helpful for those with visual, learning or perceptual difficulties

      • Bells, beeps other sounds

      • Digitized or synthetic speech

        • Speech MUST be synchronized


  • Three methods of selection

    • Pressing the mouse button

    • Switch

    • Dwell (wait time)

  • Feedback of selection may be auditory (beep) or visual (flash on screen)

  • Selected by “pressing for action” or “releasing for action”

Keyboard actions
Keyboard Actions

  • Send text

    • Word processing

  • Send graphics

    • Insert pictures or symbols

  • Cursor keys and control key combinations

    • e.g., bg Hello there bg (start and end of line)

    • e.g., bP is a print signal

  • Sticky keys

    • Control + letter (e.g., control + c = copy)

Acceleration features
Acceleration Features

  • Prediction

    • Most frequently or recently used words

    • Reduces number of selections while increasing the speed of writing

  • Abbreviation Expansion

    • Short abbreviation stands for longer word

  • Smart Punctuation

    • Automatically adds spaces after punctuation marks and capitalizes the first letter

  • Scrolling word lists

    • Lists of words beginning with each letter

Computer program control
Computer/Program Control

  • These features improve speed and increase ease of use

    • Automatic startup

    • Save/load user settings

    • Open set automatically with application

    • Open application

    • Switch applications

Speech sound actions
Speech/Sound Actions

  • Two types of speech

    • 1- digitized (recorded speech or sound)

    • 2- synthetic (computer generated)

  • Most programs have speech control to change voice, pitch, volume, etc. of speech

Selection sets
Selection Sets

  • Selection set editor

    • Program for creating and changing settings

  • Instant editing

    • Changed automatically without editor program

  • Editor accessible by user

    • Special access to program to edit sets

  • Import text file to selection set

    • Load file and creates word-bank selection

  • Selection sets supplied and available

    • Ready-made selection sets

Problems with selection mouse or pointing device
Problems with Selection (mouse or pointing device)

  • Difficulty hitting small items on the screen

  • Accidentally selects items next to the intended selection

  • Can move the mouse, but can not operate the mouse buttons

  • Difficulty seeing the mouse pointer on the screen

  • Writing is slow

Solutions to these problems
Solutions to These Problems

  • Practice

  • Slow mouse speed

  • Increase spacing between items on the screen

  • Use another switch

  • Use dwell select

  • Increase the size, shape, or color of the mouse pointer

  • Onscreen highlights

  • Use acceleration tools, use frequency of use layout

Learning to use on screen keyboards
Learning to Use On-Screen Keyboards

  • Make it simple and fun

  • Start with large targets and gradually fade to smaller targets

  • Sample Programs for Learning

    • Living Books

    • Kid Pix (drawing programs)

Programs using on screen keyboards
Programs Using On-Screen Keyboards

  • Most are suitable for the computer-literate

  • Many are expensive

    • EZ Keys for Windows ($1,000)

  • Each specialize in specific areas

    • (e.g., graphics, speech, writing, classroom)

Other programs
Other Programs

  • Wivik

    • Program designed for independent access without focus on speech output

  • EZ Keys

    • Designed for users with communication impairment because of speech output

  • Discover

    • Windows and Macintosh compatible

Programs for the classroom

Advantages of Programs designed for classroom use include:

Low cost

Text and graphics

Restrict access to certain users

Ready-made selection sets

Programs for Classroom Use:

1- Clicker

Inexpensive, compatible with all computer systems, designed for classroom use

2- Windows Switch

and Point

Inexpensive, effective, flexible

Programs for the Classroom