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Hunting for an ABC Keyboard

Ania Ciechanowski

Ania Ciechanowski

Senior Clinician Occupational Therapist – Assistive...

In the not so recent past we have had access to hardware keyboards with letters arranged in ABC order for users who had never used a keyboard before and had little reason to learn a QWERTY layout. For example they would not be exposed to any other keyboard, do not use a mobile phone/tablet or computer and would only be using this particular keyboard to access their text to speech communication device.

Keyboard with the keys in ABC order.

Some dedicated communication devices had keys that could be removed and arranged in an ABC layout and we had the BigKeys LX keyboards, which could be supplied in an ABC.  

We recently saw a person of 80+ years, who needed a simple text to speech app. They managed an onscreen keyboard, but when they tried a physical/hardware keyboard, they had a very strong preference for it.

Never having used a keyboard before, this person felt they could type much faster if the letters were arranged in a way that made sense to them. 

They were hiring an iPad from the ComTEC Equipment library to trial AAC apps in their own environment for a few months and we thought we could quickly set up or get an ABC keyboard for the library so they could loan that as well. Ideally it would be a keyboard attached to an iPad case or a compact keyboard. 

Easier said than done!  

Although keyboards can generally be remapped using computer software, there is no easy way according to the various online AT and tech communities we consulted, to do this for a keyboard attached to an iPad. You also couldn’t trick the iPad by remapping on a computer and then attaching the keyboard to the tablet (darn). Luckily our resourceful manager, Kim, found one rare ABC beastie on Amazon – not the compact layout we’d hoped but at least it was ABC!

You may never be in the hunt for one and as with many products online, there’s no guarantee, this will be around. So if you are wanting an ABC layout for a portable communication system, it is likely that the best option will be an onscreen keyboard like Keedogo Plus (approx. $4.50).

You can request to hire an iPad with apps including Keedogo Plus onscreen keyboards. Just complete the Equipment Library Request form on our Referral page.


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