Skip to content Skip to navigation

The day the keyboard died

September 23, 2013
by Kathleen Mears
| Reprints

I have used an adaptive mini-keyboard, provided by state vocational rehabilitation, since 1997. At that time I had lived in a facility for over a year. Vocational Rehabilitation was assisting me in starting a computer business or to find useful work I could do on my computer.

A rehabilitation engineer brought me a mini-adaptive keyboard. I was astounded that I could reach the keys so easily. I also got a touchpad to use as a pointing device, since I did not enough finger function to use a regular mouse.

After the year 2000 there were few adaptive keyboards on the market. In 2003 I found one that was $1,200. Because of that price, I decided to buy another like the one I had, located the vendor online and purchased it for $475. That was expensive, but I thought it would continue to work for me.

My new adaptive mini-keyboard caused glitches with my computer, but I was always able to get it to work again. However, when I bought a new computer my mini would not work with it. The vendor advised me to plug the system keyboard and the mini into a splitter and then into my computer. After that the mini worked better but there were days when there were so many glitches that I had to keep restarting my computer until the mini worked.

I also discovered the mini-keyboard caused conflicts with Dragon NaturallySpeaking and vice versa. I wanted to find a mass-produced mini-keyboard. I felt it would be more reliable and less likely to cause my programs to crash. But I was never able to locate one that I felt would meet my needs.

Last week the adaptive mini-keyboard died. Although the aides assisted me, we could not get it to work. I adapted by using the on-screen keyboard and Dragon NaturallySpeaking to input to my computer. It was a slow process and quite frustrating. I kept reaching for my keyboard.

During my searches I discovered that several online adaptive keyboard sites were no longer in business. One company offered a slightly larger keyboard where you could create a character by either letting your finger hover over a key or by touching it. But when the saleswoman suggested the best way to use the keyboard was with a bendy straw, I decided not to spend the $130. I was afraid to keyboard might be too sensitive for me.

A Canadian company offered a small keyboard for $50. But because of the tariff,  they e-mailed me the model number and I ordered it from a US. company for approximately $53 with tax and shipping.

I am hoping the new keyboard will work for me. Even if it does, however, I will continue to keep searching the mini-keyboard market for the right keyboard for me.



Kathleen Mears

Kathleen Mears has been a nursing home resident in Ohio for 20 years. She is an incomplete...