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6 Ways to Improve your Typing on a Smartphone for People with Visual Impairment

Most smartphone users, at some time or the other, have found virtual keyboards to be very slow and inefficient. It exponentially gets worse for people who are blind or visually impaired looking to improve their typing. The good news is: we have put together a list of 6 ways you can get better at typing on your smartphone. Whether you're hoping to increase the speed of your typing, make fewer typing errors, or type effortlessly – we have something for everyone.
A woman sitting at the table,  texting on her phone

Accuracy vs Speed

The biggest mistake you can make while trying to improve your typing is only focusing on increasing your typing speed while completely neglecting accuracy. People often tend to confuse typing fast with typing efficiently. They might sound like the same thing, but they are not. There is little to no use in being able to type 90 words per minute (wpm) if 45 of those words have errors in them. 

These different aspects of typing – typing speed, typing accuracy, typing errors (a.k.a typographical errors or typos), and text editing, are all interrelated. Only focusing on typing speed will lead to increased typos. This will require time and effort for editing, thus lowering your overall typing speed. Therefore, it is better to start slowly, paying attention to accuracy while gradually increasing your typing speed. This approach is more likely to improve your typing in the long run by building confidence and strengthening your muscle memory. 

Different Typing Technologies and Methods 

Some relationships are just not meant to be, and this might very well be the case with you and virtual keyboards. But don’t let your smartphone’s keyboard hold you back. There is plenty of other fish in the sea! There are many other technologies and methods that you can use for text input without having to reply on on-screen typing. Here are a few other ways you can type on your phone and tips on how to make the most of them:

External Keyboards and Braille Keyboards

Since virtual keyboards can feel a bit cramped due to the small size of keys and compact space between keys, many users prefer physical keyboards to enjoy a more tactile experience and avoid dependency on autocorrecting software. Keyboards like Logitech’s K780 are specially designed for phones and consist of dedicated keys to help users navigate their phones. For users who are blind or visually impaired, external Braille keyboards like the Hable One are the way to go! 

When to use it: Use these for larger emails or messages, which require higher accuracy and a longer duration of typing. Typing with 10 fingers instead of 2 is reported to be faster and more accurate.

Voice Dictation

Voice Dictation is a great way to navigate your phone or perform text input using voice instructions. Both iOS and Android devices support this method of input. Studies show that people can speak thrice as fast as they type, so this can be an efficient way of typing. You can also incorporate punctuations in your voice instruction so that you don’t have to add them manually, reducing the time and effort required by text editing.

When to use it: Use voice dictation when you wish to compose short messages like on Whatsapp or search your grocery list. Since this input method doesn’t ensure privacy, don’t use it while inputting sensitive information or private information that you don’t want anyone else to hear. 

Third-Party Keyboards

Tired of your smartphone’s default virtual keyboard? Just change it.
All Android and iOS devices allow users to install third-party keyboards like Message Ease Keyboard. These alternatives often have distinct customizable features that you can tailor to suit your needs. Most of these keyboards are free to use and are designed to provide you with a personalized typing experience, allowing you to change the size of the keys, the feedback options as well as the language.

When to use them: Use these when you’re looking for functionalities not available on your phone’s default keyboard. For instance, if you constantly switch between typing in two languages, install a keyboard that allows this switch without slowing you down.

Tactile Guides and Multisensory Approach 

Unlike sighted users, people with vision impairment or blindness aren’t able to use visual cues to correct to realize and correct their mistakes while typing. This can lead to lots of typos that require extensive editing, ultimately resulting in slow typing speed. However, a few simple hacks might help you enhance your typing efficiency and reduce the number of errors you make. 

If you use an external keyboard, you can easily find the home row keys and achieve proper finger placement with the help of the raised lines on the ‘F’ and J’ keys. They will you’re your fingers orient themselves to the rest of the keys on the keyboard. Further, if you find yourself struggling with specific letters, ask a friend or family member to place a drop of craft or clear glue on the problematic keys and allow it to dry and harden. You can also use blue tack instead of glue for this purpose. These will help guide you of the keys’ positions. You can also use a multisensory approach, where you can implement vibration or audio feedback to keys on a phone’s virtual keyboard that will provide you with prompts as you type. 

Make Changes within Yourself and Your Device

You would be surprised to find out how small changes made to your device settings or your posture can go a long way in improving your typing. Just the way you sit or the mere placement of your keyboard can hamper your overall typing. Here are some simple changes you can make to achieve the best results:

  • For android QWERTY keyboards, you can change how long you must touch a key on the screen before it taps by accessing the Touch and Hold Delay option in your phone’s Accessibility Settings. If you are an iPhone user, you can do the same through the Touch Accommodations option in your Accessibility Settings. 

  • You can switch between Contracted and uncontracted braille in the BrailleBack option of your Android device’s Accessibility Settings. You can do the same through the Braille Screen Input option in your iDevice’s Accessibility Settings. 

  • Hold your phone with both hands and use both your thumbs to type. This significantly increases typing speed and is faster than users who hold their phone in one hand and use the index finger of their other hand to type.

  • Sometimes, fatigue and pro-longed smartphone usage can slow down your typing to a large extent. Don’t forget to take a break every so often. Don’t forget to stretch your hands, fingers, and neck in the middle of long typing sessions.

Practice, Practice Practice

The key to excelling at any activity is lots and lots of practice. The same is true for typing as well. The more you practice, the more it will help build your muscle memory, helping you type without much effort. 

  • One of the best ways to practice typing is through games. They not only help improve your overall typing skills, but the gamification aspect ensures that the activity doesn’t become boring and tedious, and you are truly engaged. You can try your hand at typing games, such as TypingClub and Typio Online, among others.

  • These are good resources if you want to dedicate time daily to practicing and improving your typing skills:

    • Talking Typer for Windows

    • Learn Keys: Verbal Keyboard Feedback

  • Practice typing the sentence ‘the quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog’ as often as you can. While it might seem like an odd thing to do, but this sentence contains every letter of the alphabet, and practicing it regularly will help you at memorizing key placement and ultimately increase your typing speed.

Setting Goals and having Realistic Expectations

The most important thing of all – keep reminding yourself that Rome wasn’t built in a day. A good way to make steady progress is by setting definitive goals for yourself. Rather than setting a broad goal like, I want to increase my typing speed over the next three months, it would be better to set a specific goal like, I want to improve my typing speed to 60 wpm while making less than five errors by the end of this month. This will help you track your progress and the effort you need to put in. 

However, may sure you have realistic goals and expectations for yourself. Trying to achieve too much in a short amount of time will only result in setbacks and disappointment. Take your time and build your confidence slowly.

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Friday, 24 September 2021