Alternative Control

Alternative Keyboards

Alternative keyboard layouts allow people who experience difficulty accessing conventional keyboards to use computers.

Sometimes adjustments can be made to the INSERTLINKLATER accessibility options of a computer, for example, changing the sensitivity of the keyboard. On other occasions, it is necessary to get a different keyboard.

Ergonomic keyboards are the most popular keyboards available. The ergonomic design of the keyboard allows for minimal muscle strain and may reduce the risk of a repetitive strain injury. A fixed-split keyboard has keys separated in 2 to 3 groups, allowing the user to type at different angles than the typical straight keyboard. An adjustable split keyboard has the keyboard split in a number of pieces so the angle can be easily changed.

There are a wide range of other keyboard options and accessories for people who have specific needs including but not limited to the following:

  • Large print keyboards
  • Large key keyboards
  • Colourful keyboards
  • Keyboards with different layouts, e.g., QWERTY, ABC, Dvorak
  • Miniature keyboard
  • Expanded keyboards
  • One-handed keyboard
  • Chording keyboard
  • Keyboards that allow the keys to be programmed to perform certain functions
  • Keyboards that allow you to create customized overlays that you can print out. The layout allows you to add or delete keys, add text or graphics to keys, group keys by colour or location and increase visual contrast by changing the key size and colour.
  • Illuminated keyboard
  • Braille keyboard
  • Keyguards
  • Keyboard Seals or Skins
  • Keycap labels

Points to Ponder: Questions to consider when choosing an alternative keyboard

  • Features
    • How do you want the keys to be arranged, i.e., is it QWERTY, ABC or Dvorak layout? Can it be adjusted?
    • What is the size of the keys? How many keys are available on the keyboard?
    • Is the keyboard design fixed, split or adjustable?
    • Is a keyguard needed? Is it available?
    • Are the keys recessed or do they protrude?
    • Is it handheld?
    • Are there any positioning requirements? (e.g. Is the angle of the keyboard adjustable? Does it have its own mount?)
    • Is it programmable? (i.e. can you customize keys to perform specific commands/actions?)
    • For programmable keyboards, does it have different overlays? How easily can you create macro commands?
    • How much force is required for key activation?
    • Does it provide tactile feedback that a key has been pressed?
    • Will the student be typing with one hand or two hands?
  • Usability
    • Are there any visual, hearing, cognitive or developmental difficulties that may impact the ability to use the keyboard? (e.g. Do you need a specific colour combination or layout to support the student’s vision or act as a cue?)
    • Do you need to adjust any settings within the computer’s operating system (e.g. sticky keys)?
    • How easy it is to take with you if portability is required? (e.g. size, weight, carrying case, battery life/power source, connection). Consider back-up options if transporting the device is not feasible (e.g. keyboard stickers for a large print keyboard).
  • Compatibility
    • Does the device require a driver and if so, does it have a driver for your computer or device’s operating system?
    • How does it connect to your computer? Is it a wired or a wireless connection? (e.g. USB, wireless, Bluetooth, etc.)
  • Support
    • What is the warranty available for the technology? How are repairs handled? (e.g. is there someone in your area?)
    • How will you get support if you need it? (e.g. a technician in the school, a local vendor, by telephone, by email, remote access, etc.)


Manufacturers of Alternative Keyboards

SNOW does not endorse any of the following software/hardware. These links are provided for information purposes only.


Applied Human Factors, Inc

Comfort Keyboard Systems

Greystone Digital Inc.


In Touch Systems

Kinesis Corporation


Maltron Ltd.


TypeMatrix, Inc.

Zygo Industries, Inc.

Built-in Keyboard Options

Did you know? That there are built in keyboard features available for free on your computer. Learn more about the INSERTLINKLATER accessibility features of your computer here.

Additional Useful Links

KeyXL – Provides you with keyboard shortcuts for various programs for Windows, Mac and Linux platfo