Some disabilities are beyond the scope of most folk’s imaginations. Frequently people who have severe disabilities can do amazing things: like go to college, graduate and work a job. These individuals are rare, but they are out there defying expectations at every turn. When limitations are extreme most non-disabled people just haven’t had any personal experience or association with that type of disability. The general population often discuss disability in terms of blind and deaf individuals, while ignoring the million other types of disabilities, including medical conditions. Several medical conditions which preclude users from interacting with the computer with anything but the keyboard. This small group of individuals uses only the keyboard to do everything that everyone else does using their hands. They for some reason can’t operate a mouse at all. Individuals using only the keyboard are often restricted from using the mouse because they can’t control it, grip it, click the buttons, or simple don’t have enough range of motion to move it properly.
Some individuals drive the computer using only a stick attached to their head, or two sticks strapped to their non-functioning hands (as in quadriplegia). What ever the reason, the control aspect is very difficult to accommodate. However, different assistive technologies have been designed fro these most severely disable individuals.
Key guards are the most simple solution. That would be a good reason to see one of these type of keyboard guards:
This type (above) of key guard is not often seen any longer as most people using keyboard only access solutions are using iPads or communication devices. That means they can’t speak as well or at all; otherwise they might be recommended to use a voice input solution like Dragon. They will also have very limited motor skills, which make using a mouse impossible, or at least improbable.
The key guard for iPAd and and iPad mini look like this:
I’ve been to many conferences where folks who have the most severe disabilities are in attendance. Technology is a life line for them. You might think that they barely function, but you’d be surprised. Many of them eventually possess PhD’s and other advanced degrees. I’ve meet some who have written books, worked on federal commissions, been scientists. The barriers they overcome are many, to try not to provide extra obstacles on your website. Test it to see if you can navigate through the pages and controls using only a keyboard.
Here is a picture of someone who might like to have keyboard only access: