Tuesday, 1 April 2014

I can...use an onscreen keyboard!

Onscreen keyboards are becoming mainstream with the popularity of touch screen devices such as tablets and smart phones. For kids who have difficulty with fine motor control, using an onscreen keyboard in combination with a mouse (or other pointing device) can significantly reduce the motor demands involved in keyboarding.  In this issue, we'll explore the range of onscreen keyboard options there are for kids who can use a mouse, joystick, trackball or touchpad.

What should I be looking for in an onscreen keyboard? 
There are a few different onscreen keyboards available on the market.  Some are built into operating systems while others are software (free or purchased) that can be installed.  Here are some features to consider when looking at onscreen keyboards: 

Adjusting the distance between each key can affect the amount of movement of the mouse required by the client as well as impacts the target size of the keys.  It can also affect the amount of space that is available for the program you are writing into.

Able to be moved around  
Moving the keyboard around the screen may help the student to see different areas of the computer screen that may be blocked by the onscreen keyboard.

Writes where you want
Onscreen keyboards that are available within larger software programs often only write (easily) into their own word processing program.  If your student has the need to write into an email program or the Internet, ensure that the onscreen keyboard you're picking is able to do just that.

Predicts words for you
Word prediction can help reduce the number of selections required to write a word.  This can help reduce the amount of physical effort required for writing and may help someone write for longer periods of time.  Some onscreen keyboards have word prediction built in, while others work well with additional word prediction software.

Reads for you
Some onscreen keyboards have a "read" feature that will read back words or sentences for you.  It may also read any predicted word lists.  You can also consider using a talking word processor if this would be helpful for your student.

Is colourful
Some onscreen keyboards allow you to choose the background colour or choose from some ready made keyboards.  Colour and contrast can be important features for people who have visual impairments. 

Onscreen Keyboard Options
Here is a list of some of the onscreen keyboards that we've come across. The availability of the above mentioned features can be determined by looking on the manufacturer's website or downloading a free trial (if available). 

If you're not sure where to get started talk with your child's Occupational Therapist to learn more about onscreen keyboards.

Clicker by Crick (Approx $360)
version 5 requires add on word prediction (Penfriend)

by PRC (Approx. $350)

Reach Interface
by Applied Human Factors (Approx. $330)

SofType Onscreen Keyboard
by Orin (Approx. $300)

Onscreen with word complete
by RJ Cooper  (Approx. $120)

by Assistive Ware (Approx. $300)
Mac only

Hot Virtual Keyboard
by Comfort Software Group (Approx. $30)

BeKey Onscreen Keyboard
by BeEnabled (Approx. $270)

Virtual Keyboard

by Mount Focus (Approx. $15)

Click N Type
by Lake Software (FREE)

Windows 8
Built in Keyboard (FREE)

You can download this chart and print it for your reference.

Upcoming Events 

The Ontario Rett Syndrome Association (ORSA) Conference 

Registration is now open. The conference includes family activities, communication clinics, exhibitor fair and resource centre and a number of distinguished speakers.
When: April 25th - 27th
Where: Hamilton, Ontario
Cost: from $150 - see sign up for details

ISAAC Conference 

The 16th biennial conference of the International Society of Augmentative and Alternative Communication Conference. For those who have never attended an ISAAC conference, here is what you are missing: "The ISAAC Biennial Conference program offers something for everyone with an interest in AAC. Presentations feature leading edge research, and clinical and educational interventions and innovations. People who use AAC share their experiences and perspectives. Posters focus on a wide range of topics, and the Exhibition showcases new technologies or applications of technology, products and services".
When: July 19-24, 2014
Where: Lisboa Congress Centre, Lisbon, Portugal

Lace up your running shoes... 

Soon the snow will be gone and it will be time to RUN! 
Come and join over 1200 runners who have already registered and will all be "DOIN' it" on April 27th 2014 in the Forest City Road Races   in London! Let's all run, walk or wheel....for the kids!

Summer's Coming!!

Looking for a summer camp that will be unique, maybe a little challenging, but most of all fun? If your child is a TVCC client who uses a speech generating device, you will want to check out: "Setting the Stage" and "On With the Show"! 
If you are not sure whether these camps are right for your child, check with your ACS clinician.
This year the camps run the week of August 25th - 29th. Register now to secure a spot!
http://www.tvcc.on.ca/ click on "opportunities to participate" on left side of screen