Before You Consider Adaptive Technology - Options for One Hand Typing and Keyboarding

by Lilly Walters, best selling author, and one hand typist.

I have seven books in the marketplace. I typed every word myself, and I use one hand on a NORMAL keyboard. 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 and say, "Here, let me show you how .."

Although I don't even like to mention it, those with a hand disability, there are actually four options to consider for those who wish to become adept at using a keyboard, and possibly pursuing technology careers that center around this important skill.

Use the standard keyboard - This is always the first option to consider. One handed keyboards; Alternative keyboard layouts; and Voice activation.

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. This system allows the user to compete in any mainstream environment. (There are two one handed manuals available in the market place, $13.95 - $14.95, see 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!

Adaptive Devices (one handed keyboards, etc.) There are many devices and alternative keyboards that can be used to enter data into a computer, the most popular are the Half Keyboard, the BAT, and the Maltron. $99 - $1000

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, $395. For more, information

Voice Activation 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 of 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 able to operate in environments that use only common equipment, i.e., the library, the workplace, at play with friends, etc.

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

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: sell-ability 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: selecting an alternative keyboard makes a child feel apart from their peer group.

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

Only learn the 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 they plan share a computer at work or at play.

Was the user a speed touch typist before the disability? If you can catch this type of user within six months of the disability, use the HALF KEYBOARD or HALF QWERTY SYSTEM. This cuts the keyboard in HALF, and has one hand do what it always knew how to do. The other half of the keyboard is done by the same hand, on the same half of the keyboard, using the space bar, and in a "mirror image."

Always try to help the one handed person use the tools commonly found at work and at play. Our experience has been that the one handed person is trained on an alternative, then goes into the workplace, and reverts to hunting and pecking on the standard keyboard! What a pity. If that same time in training had been spent teaching them to be a speed touch typist on the standard in the first place, they could have breezed into the workplace. Once there, they would have had the typing skills to say to their two handed co-workers, "Oh here, let me show you how ... "

© Lilly Walters, 2000, may only be used or duplicated with permission. Phone 909-398-1228, fax 408-228-8752, E-mail