COMPUTER ACCESSIBILITY TOOLS

NATHAN CROSBY, EDU 721, MODULE #3

WHAT DID YOU CHOOSE AND WHY?

Initially, I choose to look at the on-screen keyboard as a viable option for students with motor control issues or muscle weakness who might have difficulty operating a standard computer keyboard. I was curious to see whether or not the same functionality was available for on-screen keyboard users as there is for those using the traditional keyboard. For the most part, the answer was yes.


Using a mouse and long-pressing the CTRL button (on the on-screen keyboard) followed by A, for instance, still selected all text on a page. The same applied to long-pressing the Windows key followed by D (to show desktop).


It was when the shortcut commands required more than one step that the on-screen keyboard lost it's functionality. As a result, I decided to focus this week's posting on KEYBOARD SHORTCUTS and how they impact a student's productivity.


(Also, it is important to recognize that the operation of a computer does not require the use of a mouse; it is just common way. It is possible to manage using only a keyboard and knowledge of key shortcuts / prompts).

VIDEO TUTORIAL (1): GENERAL WINDOWS SHORTCUTS

1 GENERAL WINDOWS SHORTCUTS

VIDEO TUTORIAL (2): THE ESSENTIAL SHORTCUTS

2 THE ESSENTIAL SHORTCUTS
KEYBOARD SHORTCUTS

Click the above button to access the KEYBOARD SHORTCUTS printable document mentioned in the tutorial videos.

HOW WELL DID IT WORK?

The purpose of a keyboard shortcut is to assist---and theoretically speed up---students in navigating through Windows features, software programs, or websites. As stated above, using the on-screen keyboard, this is not an efficient process / function.


That said, for students with fine motor control difficulties, where the use of the mouse is not always possible or accurate, keyboard shortcuts can be very effective. These students can, with training, use only the keyboard (and these shortcuts) to fully operate their computers.


At the same time, students who have visual impairments may find shortcuts to be easier to use than trying to navigate around a screen (i.e. word document or webpage) searching for the necessary function (e.g. undo or redo) or even right-clicking their mouse to bring up the menu as the print may be too small.

HOW WELL WOULD IT WORK WITH STUDENTS WITH DISABILITIES?

As previously stated, the full-range of shortcut commands is likely limited to a select few students. That said, there is no harm in teaching students the essential shortcut keys necessary to complete common tasks (i.e. copy and paste, saving documents, or accessing the magnifier / narrator functions of a computer).


However, one final word of caution about keyboard shortcuts as a viable accessibility tool. Students with learning disabilities that impact memory, or even those students with ADHD, may find it difficult to remember more than a few, essential shortcuts. As Dell, Newton, and Petroff (2012) suggest, the use of keyboard shortcuts "places a considerable cognitive load on the students. They must remember a large number of keyboard shortcuts, and they must be able to read and understand a keyboard shortcut reference list so they can locate seldom used or forgotten commands" (p. 164).


That said, keyboard shortcuts are still relatively easy to use and can benefit students in many different ways. For this reason, they are still a very viable option for accessibility.

HOW WOULD YOU SUGGEST USING THE TOOL?

In order to ensure that students have success with keyboard shortcuts, it is essential that a "cheat sheet" is clearly posted next to every computer they might access.


Consider color-coding the shortcuts based on frequency of use. i.e. common ones like CTRL + C for copy would be in green, while less frequently used ones like those associated with virtual desktops would be in red.


Also, consider purchasing keyboards which have the shortcut keys pre-labeled (see photograph below). Rather than looking at a series of cheat sheets for the appropriate command / function, a student could simply glance at the keyboard to see what combination of buttons to push.


*Ergonomic keyboards are also an example of assistive technology that can be utilized in the classroom. Personally, I have difficulty typing on a standard keyboard (arthritis runs in my family) and without these keyboards, it would be difficult to complete the duties required of my job.

REFERENCES

Dell, A. G., Newton, D. A., Petroff, J. G. (2012). Assistive technology in the classroom: Enhancing the school experiences of students with disabilities (2nd Ed.). Upper Saddle River, Nj.: Pearson Education, Inc.