According to the World Health Organization (WHO), there are approximately 11.4 million people in the U.S. who are blind or visually impaired. About 1.4 million of these individuals are unable to read ordinary newsprint without the aid of eyeglasses or lenses. Many children and adults use Braille as a primary or secondary means of communicating in a non-verbal manner. According to statistics from the Educating and Mentoring for the Visually Impaired Association (EMVIA), there are about 85,000 blind adults in the U.S. who read Braille. This increases their ability to use computerized equipment in the workplace, as well as enjoy the advanced technology in new products.
As computer technology continues to improve, the ability for those with vision impairment to communicate digitally has also evolved. The concept of Braille keyboards is not a new one. They are used regularly by those who are visually impaired to communicate both in and out of the workplace. What is challenging is the creation of new keyboards and keypads for non-standard equipment. One way to remedy this issue is to use custom silicone molding with Braille letters, numbers and raised user-friendly icons to assist sight-impaired users. Silicone rubber molds can be made to fit any shape or size keyboard or keypads, from standard keyboards to ergonomic ones to mini keypads to medical devices and telephone keypads.
One method of keyboard adaptation for the visually impaired today includes the use of Braille stickers. These adhere to the standard KWERTY keyboard. Using a rubber molding keypad cover works better than stickers, however, because they don’t come off or shift with intense use. Once they are removed, the Braille stickers also must be replaced with new ones to sustain their adhesiveness. The silicone rubber keypad can be removed and reattached without diminishing its condition. It can also be removed and moved from one keyboard to the next should there be a functionality issue with the computer station or its keyboard.
When creating a product that will be used by both sighted and visually impaired people, the keypad cover can be removed and returned as needed. When planning a new product, keypad design for accessibility purposes can easily meet any legal requirements, as well as provide added convenience and a cost-effective solution to adding Braille to keyboards and rubber keypads through custom silicone molding.
One advantage to using silicone rubber keypads to cover a custom design is that it can be cleaned easily. Routine cleansing with soap and water will prevent the keys from becoming dirty and losing their clarity. It also makes it simple to clean up liquid or fine granular spills.
For more information about how SiTECH can help you add Braille components to your product or create overlays for keyboards and keypads, contact our office at 757-887-8488.