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Archive for May, 2009

Increase Equipment Usability With Accessible Custom Silicone Keypad Controls

May 25th, 2009

Are you losing customers because of your control systems? If you sell equipment to companies employing disabled workers, they may buy from someone else if your custom silicone keypads don’t provide full accessibility. Over our years of keypad manufacture, Si Tech has learned a few tips for designing accessible controls.

High Contrast Visuals

Even the simplest custom silicone keypads should use three distinct and contrasting colors. The lettering on the key labels should sharply contrast with the color of the key for easy readability. The key color should be different from that of the area around the key so the buttons stand out. Key colors should be used to group buttons into function families. Red should be reserved for buttons which stop or cancel actions while green should be used for buttons which start functions.

Another factor in readability is the use of a large, clear font. Labels should be simple and short and lettering should be large. We have a number of fonts we have found provide clear labeling for our controls.

Sharp visuals improve readability for operators with poor vision as well as helping workers using the equipment in dim light.

Operating By Touch

Si Tech can design custom silicone keypads with keys raised off the surface. Flush mounted keys are difficult to use by touch. Small bumps on certain keys allow users to tell where their fingers are without looking, similar to the bumps on the home keys of your computer keyboard.

We can design keys in a variety of forms, allowing keys of similar function to be grouped by unique shapes. Users can locate certain keys by touch and colorblind users who might not be able to see color groupings can use shape groupings instead.

Tactile considerations like this help all operators, allowing them to use a device by touch rather than having to look back and forth at the controls.

Other Design Tips

The snap ratio on custom silicone keypads determines how firm a click the user feels when the key is pressed. A high ratio gives a solid tactile and auditory feedback when the key is pressed. This helps both visually impaired operators and sighted users working by touch.

Some equipment designs assign multiple uses to each key in an effort to keep custom silicone keypads small. The problem with this is visually impaired users may have difficulty telling exactly what a key does. Using multiple keys with one function each makes the machine more accessible.

Users who have motor difficulties may be unable to press a key several times rapidly or may be unable to hold a key down for a long period of time. Ideally, equipment should not require these kinds of inputs.

They key to understanding accessibility is that it affects all of us. The design features that open access to disabled people make equipment easier to operate for everyone.

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