A keyguard is a plate which sits over a keyboard or touch screen, with spaces that a user can put their fingers or a pointer through to hit the keys. Users who have trouble with fine motor control often find that keyguards help them to hit the key they’re aiming for, and users who have weakness or fatigue that makes it difficult to hold up their arm can rest their hand on the keyguard while pressing keys.
Keyguards can make a big difference to a user’s accuracy and ability to hit the part of the screen they’re aiming for. Dana Nieder wrote a great article about her daughter Maya starting to use a keyguard which includes a video of her first explorations – the helpfulness is really clear.
In the past keyguards were generally made for physical keyboards, so they had the shape of a regular keyboard, like this one:
Now that many disabled people are using iPads and iPhones for communication, keyguards designed for AAC programs are available.
Keyguards for iPads and iPad Minis are most commonly made of clear plastic so users can see through them to the screen beneath. In the past, many were made of metal but this doesn’t work well for touch screens because what’s underneath the covered part can change so it needs to be visible. Acrylic keyguards look something like this, though of course the holes will be in different places for everybody:
There are only a few companies who are currently making acrylic screen guards suitable for AAC users – the most well known two are:
All the other online sellers I could find online said they sourced their keyguards from one of these two suppliers.
There are creative solutions available too – Dana Nieder has made a very functional keyguard from a screen protector and layers of transparent gel pen. Holly Grey actually came up with a keyguard made of glue sticks which has thoroughly impressed me with its creativity.
Two important things to note when buying your keyguard:
Frstly, do you use a case with your device? Cases which cover part of the front of the device can make it difficult to attach a keyguard – make sure you communicate with the company when you order yours as they are very familiar with this problem. If you are looking to replace your case and will be buying a keyguard, I would suggest checking their website or contacting the company first for suggestions.
Secondly, how can the keyguard be removed and who can remove it? Most keyguards are only suitable for use in a single configuration of a single application, so if your user accesses more than one program or more than one screen layout in a single program they will probably need to be able to remove the keyguard. Even if the user themselves only accesses a single screen some supporters, teachers, or therapists will need to be able to remove the keyguard to program the device, update the software, etc.
Do you or your child use a keyguard with your iDevice? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!