How to tell if a keyboard is accessible

The BuyAccessible Wizard frequently receives comments from buyers trying to buy keyboards. Few keyboard manufacturers provide accessibility information for common, inexpensive keyboards. Buyers are not likely to have much luck asking for a VPAT on a $9.99 keyboard and it should be pretty easy to determine if it is accessible.

To meet the Section 508 standard keyboards (and keypads):

  1. The keyboard should have raised marks for the F and J key so that people who are blind can orient themselves. If there is a numeric pad, it should have a raised mark at the 5 key.
  2. The keys should be easy to operate with one hand and not require grasping, pinching, or twisting.
  3. Cap locks, num locks, and other controls must have visual status indicators (typically LED lights) and status must also be available by sound or touch. Most operating systems have accessibility options that allow for sound to indicate status of controls.
  4. The keyboard must have a standard connector, USB or PS2.

Some things you probably don’t need to worry about are:

  • “Sticky keys” allowing users with physical disabilities to perform operations requiring more than one keystroke (e.g. alt-control-delete) is typically a function of the operating system, not the keyboard. There are some keyboards that have keys that substitute for actions requiring multiple keystrokes.
  • Keyboards don’t usually require sound or speech to operate.
  • Keyboards can have software drivers, but these are not typically delivered with an inexpensive keyboard.

Have we missed anything?

This is another post from the Accessibility Forum 2.0 blog.

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