Keyboard accessibility

Not that long ago I wrote about my initial experiences with Assistive Technology. And even though those experiences happened quite some years ago and I’ve undergone a lot of healing and a number of behaviour alterations since, I still use a handful of alternative means to access a computer.

But by far the most important one I use, that makes the time I spend on a computer much more productive and enjoyable, is the manner in which I use a keyboard.

As my physical ability has progressively changed, my needs — in the sense the solutions I use — have not. Well that’s not entirely true. I no longer need switch access scanning or mouse keys, but I still heavily rely on the keyboard, and sticky keys especially, to interface a computer. I can use two hands to type, but that can be challenging (working in Photoshop is the exception) so I don’t typically use both hands. But in an effort to speed up my productivity I don’t so much require said solution, as I much prefer to use it.

Which gets to my point, my most productive use of time, in terms of my access, is the keyboard. Most of the solutions I currently use involve these 90 keys that lay before me.

So the key (har!) to keyboard accessibility is something that is often referred to as keyboard shortcuts, or access keys. It’s these keys, usually through a combination of keystrokes, that give me a means of controlling a computer via a keyboard. These actions are mainly performed through the combined use of a modifier key (the Shift, Control, Option and Command keys on the Mac) and another letter, number, punctuation or function key.

And I, as stated above, use sticky keys too help my do this. All that means is when I press one or a bunch of modifier keys it remains pressed, which isn’t  at all what really happens but the computer remembers which key I’ve pressed and “holds” it, until I press another non-modifier key I need to tell the computer the action I wish it to perform.

This is where sticky keys play an all too important role. I typically only type with one hand. Which means pressing any combination of two or more keys on the keyboard, depending on where the combination of keys I need to press are related to each other of course, can be tricky to down right impossible. Sticky keys allow me to press a modifier key and, for all intents and purposes, it stays pressed (read: activated) until I press the other key I need to complete the combination for the action I need performed. I even use this solution for an action as fundamental as capitalizing the first letter of a new sentence. Pretty important, right?

Anyway I thought this a worthwhile post to write only for the fact my Mom, as she was “fact-checking” my last blog post, asked me how she could interact with a computer without a mouse? And this is essentially how I do…

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