Learning Jaws and the Keyboard

Richard Holloway

I am a typically sighted parent of a blind child (age 9). I interact with many other parents of blind children and could use some advice for my child and to share with other parents.

My daughter was effectively born blind having lost all usable vision by a few months of age. She learned braille from the start and learned to type on a perkins brailler first, then started to learn qwerty. She much prefers to use a braille keyboard on her computer and notetaker (Apex) as well, keeping a qwerety keyboard plugged in on her computer for occasional use for certain keys and functions.

My question is this: What is the best way for a blind typist to learn to use a qwerty keyboard; to do this most efficiently? Is it using JAWS feedback with the repeating of characters verbally as typed? What about the braille key caps, or at least braille stickers for keys? (I have never yet found a USB braille key capped keyboard, only an old PS-2 style unit) I get that touch typing and just pressing down on braille key caps would be of little use braille-wise, but is is like for sighted typists, in that it helps get reoriented when your fingers move or you get distracted, etc., and just to learn qwerty in the beginning? It would be easy enough to remove the braille and go with a standard keyboard later on-- conventional keyboards are cheap.

What we end up with as parents is an argument between (mostly typically-sighted) parents that braille caps are a great idea vs. how bad of an idea they are to use. I'm not trying to sit in either camp-- I'm wondering which seems to help (and curious about any suggestions of the best ways to learn qwerty typing without vision).

I don't want to clog up the list too much with this, though it is JAWS-related, obviously. Please do feel free to reply directly if you prefer. Your response may be valuable to quite a few parents of younger, keyboard-learning braille computer users, so thanks for any experience you may be able to share.


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