Keyboards for Parkinson's sufferers
April 8, 2005 11:24 AM   Subscribe

What's a good keyboard for a Parkinson's sufferer?

I got an email from some old family friends asking for help replacing their bondi iMac. The catch is that the wife is starting to show symptoms of Parkinson's and has been having trouble typing. I've found BigKeys™ keyboards, which look like they might fit the bill, but I was wondering if anyone had experience with them or knew of any alternatives. Also, if anyone's tried the BigKeys keyboards, is the optional keyguard worth it? Thanks in advance.
posted by boaz to Computers & Internet (7 answers total)
You could ask The American Association for Parkinsons Disease. Or you could enquire about back issues of Special Needs Tech News.
Sorry, I have no first hand knowledge but assume that each individual's hand skills would come into play - I figure a suitable kb for one person wouldn't always help others afflicted - depends on type of P. disease/effects. I would logically guess that a split kb might be the go - for variances between hands, but I don't know.
(I guess there's always the other thought of voice recognition software - but maybe vocal changes over time might nullify benefits?)
posted by peacay at 11:50 AM on April 8, 2005

Do you have more information on her keyboarding issues? Does she have problems striking the keys she's aiming for, or does she inadvertently strike keys on which her fingers are resting?

If it's only the latter, she might benefit from something as simple as a buckling-spring "clicky" keyboard like the old IBM Model M. They have more resistance than standard membrane keyboards, and offer both tactile and audible feedback, so you know immediately when a key has or has not been depressed.
posted by Galvatron at 2:34 PM on April 8, 2005

I sent her an email asking her a couple of questions of that sort, but haven't got a reply yet. I also pointed her toward the BigKey keyboard and the Matias Tactile Pro as possibilities. In her email, she said the iMac keyboard was "too small", so I'm guessing the BigKey keyboard is closer to what she's looking for.
posted by boaz at 2:55 PM on April 8, 2005

Since it's free, first try fiddling with the keyboard setting in the Easy Access (OS 9) Control Panel or Universal Access (X) preference pane. Set the keyboard so that there's a relatively long delay until the keystroke is recognized. This slows down typing, but it means that stray keypresses caused by tremor won't litter her input.

If you're in the US, check for the Independent Living Center near you. These are self-help centers (funded in small part by the Feds) that can link you to a "loan closet" where a person can borrow a piece of assistive technology to see if it works for them.
posted by pricklefoot at 3:09 PM on April 8, 2005

Anyway, to update, she found out independently that a friend of a friend has one of those BigKeys keyboards, and she's going to visit them and give it a try. If she likes it, she's going to order one, and if not, she's just going to get a nice extended keyboard. Thanks all.
posted by boaz at 9:41 PM on April 12, 2005

Thanks for all these suggestions! I'm going to get my grandmother a BIG KEY now. Hopefully it will help her!
posted by kkevans at 5:31 AM on December 19, 2005

Update: Try this store instead since Big Key doesnt ship to the US.
posted by kkevans at 7:58 AM on December 19, 2005

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