Accessibility.Blog

5 Tips for Browsing the Web without Traditional Keyboard Use

March 22, 2019 12:17:09 PM EDT

As they’ve been designed today, standard input devices such as keyboards and computer mice need a high degree of fine motor control skills. Many people barely give this fact a second thought, but for others it poses an everyday challenge.

Fortunately, traditional keyboards are far from the only way that you can enter text and navigate the web. If you're looking for enhancements you can make so surfing the web is a little easier, please check out and consider these tips.

This blog post is the third in a five-part series about steps you can take to make web browsing a little easier.

1. Using an on-screen keyboard

If you're unable to or prefer not to use a keyboard, but can still control a computer mouse or other type of input pointer device, you might consider an on-screen keyboard. On-screen keyboards are virtual keyboards that appear on the computer screen, so that you can type in text even without using a physical keyboard.

To turn on the on-screen keyboard on your computer, follow the instructions below:

  • Windows:  On Windows 10, enable the on-screen keyboard by right-clicking on the taskbar, and then selecting the “Show touch keyboard button.” Click on the keyboard icon in the system tray at any time to bring up the on-screen keyboard.

  • Mac OS X:  From the Apple menu, click on System Preferences and then select the Language & Text icon. Click on the Input Sources tab and check the box next to Keyboard & Character Viewer. You can now make the keyboard appear on-screen by selecting the keyboard icon in the status menu.

2. Customizing keyboard settings

Do you find yourself performing certain laborious actions over and over again? It might be a good idea to adjust your keyboard settings to map these actions to a given keystroke or combination of keystrokes.

You can find instructions for both customizing your Windows keyboard and customizing your OS X keyboard online.

Another helpful keyboard feature is Sticky Keys, which helps you use keyboard shortcuts if you have difficulties pressing multiple keys at the same time. When you enable Sticky Keys, the keystrokes for Ctrl, Alt, Command, and Shift become “sticky,” so that you don’t have to hold them down while you press the next key.

To turn on Sticky Keys on Windows, press the Shift key five times in a row. To turn on Sticky Keys on Mac OS X, go to System Preferences > Universal Access > Keyboard and select the On option for Sticky Keys.

3. Using voice commands

Voice recognition technology has advanced by leaps and bounds in the past few years. Virtual assistants such as Apple’s Siri and Microsoft’s Cortana can do everything from checking the weather to searching the web for information.

The good news for people with motor disabilities is that you can now control your computer using only your voice, without the need for keyboard or mouse input. All you need is a good-quality microphone and speech.

To enable speech recognition on Windows, type in “speech recognition” into the search box on the Windows taskbar, and click on Windows Speech Recognition.

To enable speech recognition on Mac OS X, go to System Preferences > Dictation & Speech. Select the On option for Dictation and check the box next to Use Enhanced Dictation.

4. Using alternative keyboards

Some people find standard keyboards painful or tiring for extensive typing, but can use alternative keyboards that have been specialized for their needs.

  • Ergonomic keyboards  are intended for people with sensitive hands, wrists, or shoulders, helping to relieve the pain associated with carpal tunnel syndrome, for example.

  • Specialized keyboards  come in several varieties. These include keyboards with larger keys and keyboards with a keyguard, to prevent pressing two neighboring keys at the same time.

5. Using writing tools

Even when they’re subtle, grammar and spelling mistakes can have a big impact on how people perceive you. For example, 43 percent of consumers say that they would think less of a brand with poor spelling and grammar on social media.

Of course, spelling and grammar mistakes aren’t always fully under our control. If you have any difficulties with spelling accurately or pressing the intended keys, there are tools that may be able to help:

  • Spelling and grammar checkers  identify and correct mistakes and typos in your writing.

  • Auto-completion tools  fill in commonly used words and phrases. For example, they can be used to automatically enter your username and password, or your name and address in an order form.

  • Word prediction tools  attempt to guess the word that you’re currently typing or the word that you’ll type next, based on the previous characters you’ve entered.

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