Visual and Tactile Assistance Keyboard Labels
Large Print, Low Vision, and Braille Keytops
From: Hooleon Corporation
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.
- Braille Embossed Keytops
These embossed Braille labels come on clear backing that allows the underlaying key legends to show through so that sighted users can use the same keyboard. The kit comes with 103 keytops and is designed for use on IBM and IBM look-a-like keyboards. To allow sighted individual to assist with the installation of the labels, notations are included in the packaging to let the non-braille literate know where each label goes.
- Large Print Keytops
Hooleon offers several different styles of large print keytop labels - Large Print White Letters on a Black Background, Large Print Black Letters on a Yellow Background, Large Print Black Letters on an Ivory Background. They also offer large print keytop kits for United Kingdom (UK) keyboards, as well as a large print lowercase label kit. These kits include 114 keytop labels, with the exception of the UK kits which have 101 labels, and the lowercase kit which has 105 labels. All of these kits are designed for use on IBM and IBM look-a-like keyboards. Most of the legends in these kits are about a half inch tall and both kits provide a high degree of contrast that is ideal for anyone with low vision or who works in a low-light environment.
The color combinations used in these large print labels are all high contrast configurations that help to optimized the visibility of the labels.
- Combination Braille and Large Print
Perfect for those with some usable vision that are learning braille, Hooleon also offers a keytop kit that combines large print lettering with braille. These labels contain large print black lettering on an ivory background, and they are embossed with braille. The combination large print / braille keytop labels are also available with white lettering on a black background, black lettering on a yellow background, or with black lettering on a white background.
The combination braille and large print labels provide new braille users with a visual confirmation of the keys, or conversely, tactile confirmation of their visual choice. This combination kit is also perfect for use on a keyboard being used by both sighted and blind users. As with their standard large print keytops, the combo large print / braille kit includes 114 keytops and is designed for use on IBM and IBM look-a-like keyboards.
- Large Print Typing Tutor
In addition to full computer keyboard kits, Hooleon also manufactures a set of 50, multicolored keytops marked with large print legends. This kit is designed to help visual impaired individuals learn touch typing. The keytops are designed to
cover the keys typically found on a QWERTY style keyboard. The labels are color-coded to indicate which finger should be used when depressing the various keys. Although designed with visually impaired users in mind, this color-coded, large print labeling system seems ideal for teaching children the touch-typing method of keyboarding. The large print typing tutor is designed for use on both IBM and Apple look-a-like 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.
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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