Introducing… one-handed keyboards

Twenty-six letters, ten numbers, and twenty-plus symbols were designed for two hands for a reason. However, what if you have a disability in one hand, or if you’re an amputee? Then what?

Some people will continue using the standard QWERTY 108-or-so key keyboard, albeit with only their working hand. Others prefer using a DVORAK keyboard, which has a different layout for the letters. Still others will buy and use a keyboard designed for use by one hand.

These keyboards are like none that I have ever seen. Imagine taking one of those old, thick keyboards, putting it in a microwave, and jamming a number pad on the side. You will get something that looks like this:

Maltron keyboard, for the left hand
Maltron keyboard, for the right hand

As you can see, these keyboards look drastically different than a normal flat keyboard. They look as if they would fit well inside a cockpit control panel. The curved layout of the keyboard accommodates the hand well, and with enough practice, a one-handed typist can type at appreciable speeds of about 60 WPM. However, these kinds of keyboards are extremely rare, and quite pricey. If you are willing to shell out $695, you could get your very own personal one-handed keyboard. So far, the only company that makes these is Maltron, which may also explain their monopoly on this design and their craving desire to raid customers’ wallets for this rarity.

Another one-handed keyboard design resembles a typical computer keyboard, but cut in half. It is called a half-QWERTY half-keyboard.

Each key on this keyboard actually represents at least two keys on a normal keyboard. For example, the Q key on the top-left corner can actually type Q and P. To switch to the “other side” of the keyboard, the user presses a button. Like the Maltron keyboard, these are very pricey (around $300), but much easier to learn thanks to its similarity to the normal keyboard.

Yet another design resembles nothing like a keyboard. At first glance it resembles more like a crossover between a children’s toy and a strange video game controller, due to the presence of only seven buttons. That’s right, this keyboard effectively replaces the 100+ buttons on a keyboard with seven.

BAT Keyboard. Very compact and portable.

Using this keyboard is more like playing the piano. Combinations of buttons are pressed to create one character, just as combinations of keys are played on the piano to sound distinct chords. With this concept, the BAT Keyboard possesses the whole range of letters, numbers, and symbols that one would normally find on a QWERTY keyboard, plus it can be programmed with macros and the like. Its small design greatly reduces muscle fatigue on the hands, and it’s relatively cheap compared to the other two, at only $199.

To learn more about one-handed keyboards, please visit http://www.onehandedkeyboard.com/, a site written by one-handed typist and author Lily Walters. On the site are recommendations, comparisons, and guidebooks to using both one-handed keyboards and full-size keyboards (with one hand, of course.) It’s worth a read; I learned many things from reading the website!

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