A keyguard is a plastic or metal plate that sits above the keys on a standard keyboard. The idea was originally developed by a sixth form student for a man whose hands trembled too much for him to be able to type.
Keyguards are an essential piece of equipment that can make a huge difference for people with a variety of needs.
There is no standard computer keyboard. There are slight differences between hundreds of keyboards which means that it might be difficult to get a keyguard to fit any given keyboard. Fortunately keyboards are very cheap (cheaper than the guard, in fact) so it's usually best to buy the two devices together to make sure that they fit.
You can also get keyguards for other more specialist keyboards such as the IntelliKeys, BigKeys, Compact Keyboard and even detached numeric keypads. Guards are also made for many communication aids and other devices that are designed for hands-on input.
I am often asked about putting a guard on a laptop. The scenario is often that a pupil who is unable to write with a pencil has been recommended a laptop for full-time recording, but they have a tremor or muscle weakness for which a guard would be required. As far as I am aware, there are no commercially-available guards for laptops. One reason for this is that laptops and their keyboards vary considerably in layout, size, and shape from one machine to another. Even if a guard was produced for a specific laptop (as with paired keyboards and guards), the laptop model would likely be discontinued even before the keyguards had reached the public.
Another reason why guards for laptops might not be such as a good idea is that the screen on a laptop is attached to the keyboard, which in most circumstances results in a poor ergonomic set-up that could lead to neck pain. Purchasing a portable keyboard such as the Compact Keyboard, and adding a guard to this is most frequently the best solution.
The keyguard was originally developed for people with tremors and athetoid conditions where they tend to hit a series of unwanted keys as they are typing. It has also proven to be a successful tool for people with muscular weakness difficulties, such as Muscular Dystrophy. In these scenarios, the user can rest their hands on top of the guard while typing and therefore reduce strain on the upper limb.
Keyguards can have an effect on typing speed usually slowing it down significantly. In order to accelerate the overall typing rate you may want to consider using Word Prediction software such as Co:Writer or Penfriend.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.5 License.