NOTE: Please see other posts in this series including:
- All About that Base(Line): Strategies on Getting your Student's Baseline Typing Speed
- Starting from Scratch: Where Do I Start When Teaching My Visually Impaired Student to Type?
- Typio Online: A Web Based Self Voicing Typing Program
- Strategies for Teaching Touch Typing to Students with Visual Impairments
- Five Resources to Teach Keyboarding Skills
Over the past couple of years, I’ve written a lot about touch typing and talked about a lot of products (both free and available for purchase) that could be used to teach this important skill.
One of the products I did not review was TypeAbility. But that’s about to be remedied because that’s the subject of this article.
Before We Begin
Before we get started, I have to point out that TypeAbility is NOT its own self-voicing typing program. For the program to run, you must be using JAWS to provide voice output.
Also worthy of note is the fact that if your student is using Fusion/JAWS through APH Quota (please see the resources section at the bottom for a link to that information) you can purchase TypeAbility from YesAccessible! at a reduced rate.
If you are interested in a trial of TypeAbility software, you may download a demo version if you have JAWS installed on your PC. You are then permitted 15 free “openings” of the software before you must purchase the product. Please see the resource section for a downloadable link.
Once you’ve installed the program (see the resources section for a link to the demo and some basic instructions) simply run JAWS, then open the TypeAbility program. Its pretty easy and straightforward.
The Main Screen and Hotkeys
Once you open the program, you will be asked for your name. Typebility will remember this name and refer to you with it. After you’ve given your name, a main screen area will show up that looks like this:
JAWS will give some instructions but here is the breakdown of how to get started (note that you will need to press each of the keys below twice quickly to activate them unless otherwise noted)
F1 - Repeat Instructions
F2 - Next lesson or Repeat current lesson
F3 - Opens the Lesson List
F4 - Opens the Dictation List
F5 - Opens Race Keyboarding
F6 - Opens Academic Lesson LIst
F11 - Switches Between Default TypeAbility Lessons and Teacher Created Lessons (activating this button also changes the functions of the other buttons slightly but we will cover that later)
F12 - Opens Progress Reports
Escape three times quickly - Quite TypeAbility
Lessons and Activities
As you can see from the above list, there are various way to use TypeAbility with your students:
- Lesson List (F3) - These lessons are a mix of traditional lessons such as learning the M and N keys and typing words or phrases using these keys and lessons specific to screen reader users such as how to navigate a dialogue box. As you can imagine, having these two things in the same teaching curriculum helps the student not only learn to type but how to implement use of JAWS hotkeys and navigation commands.
- Dictation List (F4) - This list gives options for text to be dictated to the student so he or she can type freely. This generally requires good keyboarding skills, so this lesson type may need to wait until your student reaches a certain level of proficiency.
- Race Keyboarding (F5) - When in a lesson, this option provides you the opportunity to start a speed and accuracy timing.
- Academic List (F6) - This list allows you to choose from five main academic subjects (Language, Geography, Biology, Science, Math, and specific “quizzes” in each area (such as States and Capitals under Geography or Planets/Moons under Science). This is another area that requires students to be proficient typers (answers must be typed in, not selected from a list), but also allows them to practice use of typical JAWS keystorkes such as working in a tree view when selecting a category to work in.
The User Preferences settings can be used to set the speed or pitch of JAWS when interacting with TypeAbility. Settings can also be adjusted to accommodate a student who is one handed or whether the student benefits from typing feedback in various locations. The settings can even be adjusted to account for the type of humor the program should employ to keep the user’s interest. To open the User Preferences, press Control+U. To announce any specific user preferences that have been adjusted for the user, simply press Control+Shift+U.
At any time, a teacher or student can find out their progress, including typing speed and accuracy. The individual must press F12 twice quickly and the information will appear. You can review information from the most recent activity or get an overall average.
Teacher Created Lessons/Materials
By pressing F11 twice quickly, the individual logged in can switch to “teacher mode” that allows a teacher to create specific lessons to improve a specific typing skill set. He or she can also create specific academic lessons in addition to those provided by TypeAbility by default.
What struck me as most unique and useful about this program is that it not only teachers about touch typing, but also gives some basic instruction and practice on how to navigate using a screen reader and some of the more common hotkeys that will be used by the student once he/she masters typing.
The perfect example is the lesson on using dialogue boxes to adjust settings. These activities can be easily generalized to different environments.
The only thing I really would like to see if perhaps an academic lesson on Windows keystrokes. I would imagine that being able to do so The reason I don’t specify JAWS is because those keystrokes may change and may depend on whether you are using Laptop or Keyboard layout, but Windows Keystrokes will be more likely to stay consistent across programs.
One thing that could be a drawback is the need to use JAWS with TypeAbility and it is not its own self-voicing program. It does not work with NVDA either, so my guess is that it only works with JAWS and not anther screen reader. Honestly, this isn’t really a bad thing, just a bit inconvenient. Having a self-voicing program really helps students, but on the other hand, the ability to hear the familiar voice of JAWS may be comforting for some.
Overall, this is a great program and resource with lots of options to offer our students.
- YesAccessible! Main Page
- Download a TypeAbility Demo (JAWS 13 and newer)
- Installation Instructions - Word Document Download
- Purchasing Fusion/JAWS through APH