A solution for disabled or injured workers!

One in five Australians has a disability

The Australian Bureau of Statistics 2009 Survey of Disability, Ageing and Carers (SDAC) revealed that approximately one in five Australians, or 4 million people, have a disability.

87% of those 4 million people have a specific limitation or restriction; that is, an impairment restricting their ability to perform communication, mobility or self-care activities, or a restriction affecting employment or schooling.

The most prevalent group of disabling conditions, making up 6.5% of the total, are diseases of the musculoskeletal system and connective tissue.  Musculoskeletal/connective tissue conditions include:

  • Arthritis
  • Osteoporosis
  • Limb amputations

These conditions affect the sufferer’s ability to use the affected parts of the body, often the limbs, to perform activities such as walking, lifting objects, writing and typing.  Other conditions that affect the functioning of the muscles and tissues include motor control disorders, spasticity and hemiplegia.

Disabilities and computer access

The 2009 survey included a series of questions specifically about computer use.  This is because, as quoted in the report:

“computers and the Internet are becoming increasingly important in enabling people to communicate as well as accessing information and services. In the context of a disability specifically, they are also increasingly becoming the basis for versatile aids to assist people in overcoming their limitations and restrictions”

As shown in figure 1, a significant proportion of individuals with disabilities surveyed (approximately 25-30%) had used a computer either at home, work or elsewhere within the past 12 months.  Severity of the disability appeared to be the main determining factor in computer use, with more than 70% of those with profound disabilities unable (or unwilling) to use a computer.

According to JobAccess Australia, for those with a physical disability one of the main impediments to computer access is the standard ‘QWERTY’ keyboard, the design of which is not appropriate for people with disabilities (PWD).  Standard keyboards are counterintuitive and inefficient, and are not designed for use with one hand.

Maltron keyboards are disability-friendly

Maltron ergonomic keyboards have been designed specifically for PWD and those wishing to avoid the harmful effects of long-term keyboard use (such as RSI).  Many organisations and individuals that support and provide services for PWD have publicised ergonomic keyboards as effective tools to assist such individuals to access computers and participate more fully in the workforce.  To name just a few:

Maltron keyboards are market leaders in this field, particularly in the development of one-handed keyboards.  These keyboards, referred to by blogger hand2mouth as the ‘grail’ of one-handed keyboards, were designed by Stephen Hobday based on an original design by Lillian Malt, who conceived of the original idea for an ergonomically designed keyboard, based on her extensive experience with typing running a secretarial business.

Some of the features that make the Maltron keyboard more accessible to individuals with physical disabilities and prevent further injury are:

  • Keys are set in two convex banks and angled to produce a more comfortable position for the wrists
  • Key heights are varied to fit the lengths of fingers
  • Tilted keytops reduce finger stretching
  • The keyboard is separated in the centre to eliminate wrist, arm and shoulder deviations
  • The load is balanced between the two hands–making some allowance for right hand dominance
  • The load is balanced between the fingers–allowing for individual finger capacity
  • The most commonly used letters are placed directly under the ten digits–to reduce finger movements
  • Adjusted key height and slope also allows for considerable increase in typing speed

The one-handed keyboards replicate the function of standard full-sized keyboards with the following features:

  • ergonomic dual layout developed specifically for left handed or right handed use
  • individual number pads as well as a number panel alongside the letters to prevent fatigue
  • re-arrangement of the letter and number keys on a standard keyboard to a more efficient position
  • number keys on one side and letter keys on the other side
  • use of space bar to change left half of keyboard into the letters from the right half of the keyboard.

With the right tools, PWD can engage effectively in the workplace and educational settings and can use computers for the full range of activities within and outside the home.  Contact us today to order your Maltron keyboard.

Further Reading

Eilam, Z. (1989). Human engineering the one-handed keyboard. Applied Ergonomics, 20, 225 – 229.

Matias, E. (1996). One handed touch typing on a QWERTY keyboard. Human-Computer Interaction, 11, 1-27.


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