Computer Ergonomic Keyboard
All the keys on an ergonomic keyboard are designed to be within reach of all of the user’s fingers to minimize the amount the movement of the user’s hands and arms, thereby maintaining these parts in an ergonomic position during use.
Keep in mind that discipline on the your part is still needed in placing the computer ergonomic keyboard at the correct height and distance from the body – same level as the elbows with the arms bend 90 degrees with the body posture either upright or slightly leaned back, not leaned forward.
This page will recommend the good ergonomic practices for natural keyboards and ergonomic split keyboards. Also an overview of the alternative computer ergonomic keyboards available in the market will be elaborated below…
Prevent Injury By Following These Keyboard Ergonomics
The use of computer ergonomic keyboard is no guarantee.
It certainly does not mean that prevention of musculoskeletal disorders (MSD) is 100% with natural keyboards.
Natural keyboards are still the most popular keyboards used because they are low cost and come with your purchased desktop and laptop systems by default. However, the standard keyboard encourages ulnar deviation and pronation that leads to injuries if used for extended periods of time. The smaller the keyboard, the more irregular the posture. This is more prevalent with laptops and touch pads. Here are recommendations for good ergonomic practices with natural keyboards.
P.s. I’ve noticed that there aren’t any classically ergonomic keyboards for mac. See Ergonomic keyboard mac designed compatible.
Even if you don’t have a computer Ergonomic keyboard, you should still read this. You can make do with what you have!
1. Standard keyboards have an number pad on the right hand side. By centering the keyboard to your body, the keys for the alphabet are shifted to the left. This results in your right hand being bent sideways more. A simple solution to this would be to align the only alphabet portion of the keyboard to your body i.e. the ‘H’ key should be aligned with the center of the body.
Keep the keyboard at a distance such that your elbows can be kept close to your body while typing. This will prevent you from leaning forward and extending your arms to reach the keyboard.
Adjust your Chair and Elbow Angles
2. Adjust your chair or workstation to allow your elbows to be at the same level as the table and keyboard. See Ergonomic Pictures. This will ensure that your forearms and parallel with the floor. With the keyboard flat on the table, your wrists will stay straight while typing.
The Right Slope Of Your Keyboard is Flat or Downwards
3. Majority of the standard keyboards are designed with a slope (number keys are higher than the spacebar key). They are also designed with extendable ‘legs’ to elevate the keyboard more to bring all the keys closer to the hands. This results in extensive pronation which leads to injuries such as carpel tunnel syndrome if done for hours at a time.
Keeping the computer ergonomic keyboard as flat as possible is recommended. Reduce awkward wrist angles by lowering or raising the keyboard or chair to achieve a neutral wrist posture.
A further recommendation would be to place the computer ergonomic keyboard on a keyboard tray and have it tilted downwards such that the spacebar key is higher than the number keys. This will encourage you to keep your wrist straight as you type. This also maintains a good ergonomic posture that keeps the forearm below the elbow.
Best selling Microsoft Ergonomic Keyboards are popular for their ergonomic keyboard options. They are also very affordable and widely available.
Alternative Computer Ergonomic keyboards
It has not been scientifically proven that ergonomic keyboards provide more ergonomic support than someone using a natural keyboard in an ergonomic orientation. There have been many different and innovative designs around the computer ergonomic keyboard, and they are to be chosen according to the needs of the user.
From Ergonomics at Cornell, http://ergo.human.cornell.edu/AHTutorials/ckd.htm
1. Modified Standard Layout (e.g. Kensington Comfort Type Slim Keyboard – www.kensington.com). This keyboard looks like a standard keyboard except that the keys are angled so that there should be less ulnar deviation when typing.
Fixed-angle split keyboards
2. Fixed-angle split keyboards (e.g. Microsoft natural). These keyboard designs split the alphanumeric keys at a fixed angle and they slightly tent the keyboard.
There is some research evidence of reduced discomfort because of reduced ulnar deviation (lateral bending of the hands).
These designs work better for broader, larger frame individuals or pregnant women because they put the arms in a better position to reach around the front of the body. However, the designs usually address the issue of wrist extension, the upwards bending of the hands, which turns out to a more important musculoskeletal injury risk factor than ulnar deviation.
Hunt n’ pecker users will find that split keyboards are more difficult to use. The keyboards generally are more expensive than conventional keyboards, and usually they are larger and wider, which in some situations can put the mouse too far out to the side of the keyboard.
The multitouch fixed-angle split keyboard (Touchstream – www.fingerworks.com) do not use conventional keys but have a touch-sensitive surface that allows the user to key and mouse on the same physical area. This design also allows users to control many computer commands through the use of simple finger gestures, again all performed on the same physical area. There is a learning curve, but as users become proficient the overall speed of computer work performance can increase by over 80%.
3. Adjustable-angle split-keyboards (e.g. Goldtouch Ergonomic Keyboard). This computer ergonomic keyboard designs allow the user to change the split-angle to suit their own needs.
Often the split angle is linked to the degree of tenting of the keyboard as well. There is some research evidence of reduced discomfort with this kind of design, because of reduced ulnar deviation. These designs do not usually address wrist extension issues. The fact that the use has to decide on the split-angle means that they may need some training and it is always possible that some users might end up with a split angle that is inappropriate for them. There is also a multitouch adjustable-angle split-keyboard (Touchstream LP – www.fingerworks.com). Split keyboards are always difficult for hunt n peck typists to use, and often these designs are fairly expensive.
Completely split keyboards
4. Completely split keyboards (e.g. Kinesis – www.kinesis.com). In these computer ergonomic keyboard designs the left hand and right hands portions of the keyboard are completely split apart.
In some designs the keys are presented in a scooped design that allows the hands to rest in a more neutral posture for typing. There is some research evidence of reduced discomfort because of reduced ulnar deviation and also reduced wrist extension. However, there is more of a learning curve and research shows that initial performance can suffer a 50% slowing of typing speed. Completely split keyboards are hard for hunt n’ peck typists to use, and some of them are very expensive. A chair-mounted split keyboard also is available (Kinesis Evolution Fully Adjustable Keyboard) and this has been studied in a research project (view research presentation).
Vertically split keyboard
5. Vertically split keyboard (e.g. Safetype – www.safetype.com). The design is rather like that of an accordion and the user types with the hands facing each other, consequently the keys cannot easily be seen.
This design works well to reduce ulnar deviation and wrist extension, but it is important not to have the keyboard too high otherwise the chest and shoulders can fatigue. The computer ergonomic keyboard design is pretty well impossible for hunt n peck typists to use, and because it is a specialist keyboard it is expensive. A report of this keyboard is available (download research report). A presentation on this keyboard is available (view research presentation).
6. Chordic keyboards (e.g. Twiddler www.handykey.com/). Chord keyboards have a smaller number of keys and letters and digits are generated by combinations of keys in chords.
One-handed and two-handed designs are available. Research shows that it is like learning stenography and there is a high learning curve (about 80 hours to get to moderately fast) to learn the chords that correspond to characters. The keyboards are more expensive than regular keyboards but can be useful to some users, especially those with special needs, such as a blind user or one with severely arthritic hands.
7. Specialist keyboards (e.g. Datahand www.datahand.com, Orbitouch www.keybowl.com). Several different keyboards designs have been developed to assist users who have some physical limitation or who wish to type in a different way.
The Datahand allows the user to rest their hands on a series of switches that detect different directions of finger movements, and these generate the characters. The Orbitouch lets users rest their hands on two domed surfaces and then to move these surfaces to generate the characters. Specialist keyboards often result in slower typing and can have significant learning curves, so they aren’t for the masses. Like other alternative keyboard designs, they are expensive.
One – handed keyboards
8. One – handed keyboards (e.g. Half-QWERTY – www.aboutonehandtyping.com). Sometimes users can have a physical limitation, such as one hand, or they perform work where one hand needs to key while the other does something else.
Several alternative designs for one handed keyboards are available. The Half-QWERTY users the same kinds of keys that are found on a regular keyboard, but each key functions in two modes to generate all of the characters of a regular keyboard in a smaller area. One-handed chordic keyboards (e.g. BAT – www.aboutonehandtyping.com, Twiddler -www.handykey.com) and one-handed multitouch keyboards (Mini – www.fingerworks.com ) are also available.
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