North Dakota Assistive

ND Assistive | Assistive Technology Blog

7 Ways to Improve Direct Access to Tablets for People with Physical Disabilities

Are you working with someone who has trouble accessing the touchscreen on their tablet?  Here are a few ways to help improve access:

Gloves/Mittens with One finger or Thumb Cut Out for Touch Screen Use

To eliminate accidental touches and improve accuracy when using a touch screen, a glove or mitten with a hole cut out for a finger or thumb is one idea. When gloves are used in this manner, the only touch the screen recognizes is the touch from the ungloved finger/thumb.

NanoTips-Make Your Own Touchscreen Gloves Without Scissors

NanoTips makes any pair of your favorite gloves/mittens “touchscreen” accessible. It is applied to the fingertip or thumb just like you would paint your nails. Once it dries, it is ready to go. There are two different versions; one for leather/rubber and one for fabric/fleece. This company will also be coming out with touch screen stickers called TAPS that can be applied to any glove, and they are waterproof. My guess is that there will be other uses for those stickers to make additional items touch screen compatible. We have not tried these products yet at Assistive, but they look promising.

Change the Screen Input Settings

iOS and Android devices have built in screen controls that allow one to change the way the screen interacts with touch. For example, iOS devices can be set to only activate when the finger is released or when the finger has held down in a spot for a predetermined number of seconds. An example for Android is Interaction Control where you can block certain areas of the screen within an app. For more Accessibility information for iOS go to this Apple Help Page for iOS10.  For more info on Android Accessibility features go to this recent LiveWire Article.

Keep in mind that these built-in settings do not work in every app. The developer has to allow them when creating or updating the app. Some apps made for people with disabilities have screen controls built into them such as Proloquo2go or TobiiDynavox Compass.

Keyguards for Tablets

Keyguards are pieces of Plexiglas with holes cut out for each of the keys on a keyboard, the buttons of a communication app, etc.. These attach to the tablet and allow the person with a disability to rest their hand on the Plexiglas and poke their fingers through the holes to touch a particular spot on the screen without accidentally activating the screen in the wrong place.

Keyguards work well if the user is staying on a particular screen where the underlying scene or buttons on the screen match the keyguard. Since each app on the tablet is going to have different dynamic changing scenes and activities, this does not make a keyguard the ideal screen access aid, but sometimes it is the option that works best. At the very least one would have to have a keyguard for each app. In addition, whenever an app updates, sometimes the layout of where the buttons are on the screen changes thus the keyguard doesn’t match anymore and a new one has to be made.

Lasered Pics-makes keyguards for several iPad apps for people with disabilities. Make sure to check the compatibility with your version of the app.


BigBlu Vision Board Keyboard with Keyguard

This large-key Bluetooth keyboard features white or colorful 1” keys with bold lettering, offering an advantage to people who find it difficult to use a traditional keyboard. The large lettering makes it easy to see with letters nearly 250% larger than the print on standard keyboards. The keyboard includes oval F-keys for distinction from the regular keys. It uses wireless Bluetooth technology and can be used with Bluetooth enabled PC, MAC, Android and iOS devices (iPads).

BigBlu has an available keyguard that sits over the keyboard with spaces that a user can put their fingers or a pointer through, to hit the keys. This prevents accidental key hits.

When a student with reduced dexterity is ready to type letters on a computer or tablet, this keyboard/keyguard combination could be the answer. It may work better than the onscreen touch keyboard on an iPad. The key size may increase accuracy and speed for some individuals. The Bluetooth cordless aspect can provide more flexibility with mounting choices and is the connectivity needed for wireless use with an tablet.

The keyguard works just like the ones described above and will allow one to rest their hands on the Plexiglass while they poke their fingers through the holes to touch the keys or drag their hands across the keyboard without accidentally activating any keys.

Using a Stylus with Holder

A stylus is a pen shaped gadget that allows one a more accurate touch on a touchscreen monitor or tablet. This in combination with a stylus holder would help a person use the stylus without having to hold it. The stylus holder would attach to the hand, so one does not have to concentrate on holding the stylus AND use it for pointing.

Universal Cuff-add the stylus to this: http://www.caregiverproducts.com/universal-foam-grip-quad-cuff.html

Various Stylus Holders from ShapeDad on Etsy 

Large Stylus-Kid Safe

A typical stylus has a small easily removable tip, so if you are working with a child who is still putting items in his mouth or one who is in a household with younger children, a child safe stylus may be in order. In addition, a larger stylus can be easier to grip for people. The Gummy Grip Stylus from Kensington is a large and kid-safe pointing device.

Further Reading

Learn How to Use an iPad! (And other helpful resources.)

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