Keyboard Accessibility for Individuals with Motor Impairment for Computers and Mobile Devices

web_access keyboard pic

Among the updates in the new iOS 9 operating system, offered late October 2015, are additional features for touch accommodations. These setting are wonderful additions to students with motor impairments but also highly relevant when working with adults with motor impairment. Recent evaluations of adults with motor impairments who are interested in access to computers, whether tablets or standard computers, brought about questions of what is available currently for keyboard access  for individuals with motor challenges.

As a therapist working with students inaccuracy with motor planning, in coordination, weakness or tonal challenges may be some of the difficulties presented when accessing keyboards or touch devices. Similar challenges present themselves with adults, whether aging in place, Parkinson’s or tremors, or other mobility challenges (arthritis, sensory impairments, injuries) when considering methods of access  to a keyboard or touch screen for typing or access. A client recently evaluated demonstrated significant tremors, greater in the right (preferred) hand than left, significantly interfering with his ability to type. Challenges with low vision also potentially contributed to the challenge.

So what solutions are available? Here are a few solutions, not exhaustive, of direct select accessibility features of computer and mobile devices.

Windows Computer Solution:

Windows OS offers setting for repeat and rate/speed  for keyboard and mouse. Ease of Access in Windows also offers Sticky keys, Filter Keys and Toggle Keys. Bounce Keys is also available in Windows OS.  With one of my clients, using Windows accessibility with a high contrast keyboard with large print labels and applying Bounce keys set at the highest setting of 2.0 seconds allowed the client to type his name with two hands without errors. Initial trial without Bounce keys, resulted in little to no recognition of his name due to repeating keys and strike errors. Bounce keys did the trick! These settings can be found by searching your system for  Ease of Access to trial and apply accessibility options.

MAC Computer Solutions:

Accessibility options for MAC computer key input can be customized in System Perferences for key repeat rate and delay until repeat.

Other computer based software for mouse and onscreen keyboard input rates are offered as shareware and for purchase ( a possible topic for another post!).

iOS Devices:

In iOS 8 assistive touch features were available with customization of touch gestures. New features in iOS 9 currently offers more touch accommodation settings for individuals with motor coordination problems. Here are a few of the new features and a video overview  on “Touch Accommodations in iOS 9” by Luis Perez, an expert when it comes to iOS features for individuals with disabilities:

iOS 9 Keyboard Accessibility Options:

Hardware keyboards now have options for key repeat, sticky keys and slow keys. Rates can be adjusted to individual needs. Touch accommodations are also available for length of time or repeat with direct touch of the screen.

iOS touch accommodations iOS 9 pic

Here is Luis Perez’ YouTube (3 min.) specifically on the iOS 9 touch accommodations:

His video can also be found on his YouTube channel : Luis Perez YouTube channel

Android Accessibility Options

Android OS has accessibility features for touch input called Touch & Delay. Offered in Settings >accessibility > touch and hold delay,  this accessibility option offers settings of short, medium or long for input into the Android touch screen.

Other Input Supports:

I have had success using some of the following equipment to assist with improving input methods for individuals with motor in coordination. Combined with keyboard rate or accessibility options may assist with input accuracy:

  • Use of a wrist rest for stability of the forearm or hand
  • Use of a stylus  with a larger grip or as a pointing device for greater accuracy when targeting a key or icon
  • Large key keyboards, for mobile devices or computers:
    • MoreKeyboard – offers larger keys and key labels for individuals with motor control challenges. The keyboard touch feels solid and is easy to see.
    • Chester Creek Vision Board has extra-large keys for significant motor impairments
  • keyguards are also available for standard keyboards or for mobile devices. Lasered Pics offers a wide variety of keyguards and also offers customized keyguards.
  • Positioning  and positioning devices can also be helpful depending on range of motion and motor impairment.


This is a quick overview of ways to customize direct input for individuals with motor challenges for computers or tablets. Certainly there are many other tools that can be applied for mouse emulation or indirect access using switch control

If you are interested in more accessibility resources, I highly suggest subscribing to Luiz Perez’ YouTube channel. He always delivers highly relevant and informative AT info!

What did I miss that you have found helpful with your clients for individuals with motor impairment?


About Carol Leynse Harpold, MS, OTR/L, SCLV, ATP, CATIS

OTR/L with more than 35 years experience in pediatrics, school based therapy and adult rehabilitation. Masters of Science in Adaptive Education/Assistive Technology with 20 years experience in AT in education of elementary, middle school, secondary, post secondary students and work environments for adult clients. A RESNA Assistive Technology Practitioner with ACVREP CATIS credentials, AOTA Specialty Certification in Low Vision, USC Davis Executive Certificate in Home Modifications, servicing adults and students with disabilities in employment, education, and home environments. A 2020 graduate of the University of Alabama Birmingham Low Vision Certification Program.
This entry was posted in Accessibility, Adults, Aging in Place, Android, Android Management, Assistive Technology, Computer Utilities, iOS, iPad, iPhone, iPod, iPod/iPad Accessory, Keyboard, Mobility Impairment, Occupational Therapy. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Keyboard Accessibility for Individuals with Motor Impairment for Computers and Mobile Devices

  1. Dianna Ferrara says:

    Hi..I havent received this blog post since Nov.You tell me why our re add me? Thank you Dianna

    Dianna On Nov 8, 2015 2:11 PM, “OT’s with Apps & Technology” wrote:

    > Carol Leynse Harpold, MS, AdEd, OTR/L, ATP posted: ” Among the updates in > the new iOS 9 operating system, offered late October 2015, are additional > features for touch accommodations. These setting are wonderful additions to > students with motor impairments but also highly relevant when working with > adult” >

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