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Touchdown Keytops

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Touchdown Keytops
Visual and Tactile Assistance Keyboard Labels

Large Print, Low Vision, and Braille Keytops

From: Hooleon Corporation
www.hooleon.com

Reviewed by Rochelle Caviness

Without a doubt, the home computer has been a tremendous boon to the visually impaired community. Using screen magnification and text-to-speech programs, visually impaired computer users can access the same information and perform the same tasks on the computer as fully sighted users. Those using text-to-speech programs have an added advantage over sighted users - they don't need a monitor! The main drawback to the computer, for the visually impaired, is the accessibility keyboard.

To help make computer keyboards accessible to the visually impaired, Hooleon Corporation has created a variety of innovative labels that can be used to adapt most standard computer keyboards for use by those with visual impairments. Called Touchdown Keytops, these labeling kits are available in a variety of styles, including: In addition to offering the keytops labels, which enable you to modify your existing keyboard, Hooleon also manufactures large print and braille keyboards that can be used with IBM and IBM compatible Computers.

What are Keytops?

The Touchdown Keytops labels manufactured by Hooleon are heavy duty, plastic feeling, peel off labels stickers. They are shipped along with application instructions - in standard print, and with a sealed package containg an alcohol wipe. The wipe is used to clean the keyboard before applying the labels. After wiping down your keyboard with the wipe, you simply remove the stickers from the backing sheet with a pair of tweezers, place them over the corresponding legend on your computer, and press down. If needed, a sighted 'installer' may be helpful to ensure that the labels are lined up properly. The labels are held in place by a strong adhesive. I found that it was possible to pull the labels back up for a short time after placement, but after a day or so they seemed pretty permanently 'stuck' so you'll want to make sure that you correct any errors in placement immediately, before it is 'too late'!

Home-row Key Indicators

Even the most skilled touch typist sometimes makes a mistake in the placement of their fingers. Finding out that you've made a mistake in finger placement can be extremely frustrating, especially if you don't discover the mistake until after you've already written pages of gobbly-gook. For the visually impaired, whether skilled or just learning to use the keyboard, ensuring that your fingers are in the correct location or that you are using the correct keys can be just as frustrating. For those using text-to-speech software you can set it to read out every letter you type, ensuring that you are using the correct keys. However, if you are like me, this is very distracting, so I usually don't have it read back what I have written until I've complete a paragraph - sometimes to discover that I had my fingers lined up with the g and k keys, rather than the correct f and j keys *grin*

So, what is a person to do????

Hooleon Corporation as come up with an easy solution - raised bumps that you can stick on top of the home keys - F and J - that are used to line up your fingers for correct placement when using the touch typing method. The 'dots' come on circular stickers with a raised dot in the center. These indicator dots can also be used to mark the numeric keypad, F keys, or any key on the computer keyboard that you want to easily find. They can also be used on other items around the house, such has hand-held calculators, the telephone keypad, or other device that you may want to mark. In addition, these indicator buttons can be used on your keyboard in conjunction with the Touchdown Large Print Keytops. These Home-row key indicator dots will benefit both sighted and visually impaired typist who desire a tactile means of locating specific keys. Hooleon sells the Home-Row indicators in packages of 12, 50, or 100.

My Thoughts on the Touchdown Keytops

Personally, I really like these labels. No more counting or pulling out a magnifier to search for the correct F key! The large print keytops are as large as they can be and still fit on a standard keyboard. According to the manufacturer, in most case the large print labels are doubling the size of the standard keyboard legends. In regard to the braille labels, I found them very easy to use and not at all uncomfortable, even after typing for a long period. In addition, the embossing seems to be very resilient. I tried erasing the braille with my eraser, and it just kept 'popping' back up. According to the information that accompanied the braille embossed keytops: "The braille legends are embossed to meet the Americans with Disabilities Act standards."

Overall, I was very impressed with the Hooleon Touchdown Keytop labels. They seem to be very well made - you can cut them with scissors, but I was unable to tear or otherwise destroy them without going to unusual lengths. In other words, under normal conditions, I anticipate that they labels will last for years, even under heavy use.

Hooleon Corporation

In addition to the large print and braille Touchdown Keytops kits, Hooleon produces a whole host of innovative labeling kits from language conversion label kits to Dvorak and Emulation Label kits. They also sell keyboard maintenance tools, keyboard protectors, and other useful accessories and speciality keyboard products. Additional information about Hooleon Corporation, the products mentioned in this review, as well as how to order these products, can be found online at: www.hooleon.com

This review was originally published - August 10, 2004


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