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Tech Review: Keyboards for Smaller Hands

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On a regular size keyboard, I can type 70 wpm. And yet, a few years ago, I was in danger of losing my job at a major Internet company. Why? My hands hurt. My hands began to hurt all the time.

Nothing new. People who type a lot get carpal tunnel syndrome and suffer from repetitive motion stress. Women and older employees are more likely to have this problem.

After watching other people type, and reading about the kind of pain that other people felt, I came to the conclusion that my keyboard was too big for me.

Let me backtrack a bit. I am under five feet tall. I weigh less than 100 pounds. I am a perfect size 12 — almost. That's a children's size 12 and what keeps me from being perfect is my waist. I have one. Children do not have a small waist in comparison with their other measurements. I also have hands and feet that are small for my size.

When I played the piano as a junior high school student, I had one teacher who, with a faux kindness that made her Southern accent grating to my nerves, assured me that with practice, I would be able to reach an octave. All I got was pain that spanned across the back of my hands. When I quit playing piano, the pain stopped.

And this pain was similar to what I felt when I typed too much.

If a keyboard is made, like many things, for the average man, then for the person who is smaller, much smaller than the average male, the keyboard is oversized.

I noticed how other people's hands fit and flitted across their keyboards. How they didn't have to strain their forefingers and pinkies and didn't have to look down because they could touch type.

After some research, I found and showed to my consulting ergo person what I considered a solution. The most the company was willing to provide was a slim profile board — the keys were still too far apart.

The keyboards that I bought and currently use are one third smaller than the average keyboard. The one that is readily available, by A4 Tech, comes in various colors. I have ABC at the top of the board and the keys are colored to help me along. There's also software to help teach typing that I've never looked at.

I liked the yellow keyboard I got so much that I also got one for home in order to keep my typing speed up so I didn't have to change mindsets between home and work. I have the aquamarine colored model at home.

These keyboards work well for both Mac and PC.

There is actually a better, more professional looking board. Advertised as aimed at K-6 grade children and for people that have to type with one hand, I would love to get more than the one model that I have at home.

The LittleFingers keyboard from Data Desk Products feels sturdier than the A4 Tech, however, but seem to be hard to come by and may no longer be in production.

I will probably get another A4 Tech keyboard to take with me in a briefcase and act as a back up should my one at work have problems since my work is unwilling to provide non-adult sized items for employees.

Oddly enough, when the ergo consultant advised me to use two mice, the other one I purchased was from Ergo Cube.

Deciding to have fun since my keyboard already has ABC and some hokey pictures of sports figures at the top of the board, I ordered fun mice. I have a tiger and two dogs.

In defense of my workplace and their ergo awareness, they DID provide me a special chair for petite people; however, this was only after a manager, who is taller and heavier than I, got one and I had to pursue the issue after accidentally finding out about it.

In any case, the A4 Tech keyboards are not that expensive and mine has lasted for over two years. Your kids might not be able to tell you if they feel pain, but I highly recommend getting an A4 Tech keyboard. If your child grows or as your child grows, you can get another keyboard.

Currently, the A4 Tech keyboards come in blue, Barbie pink and aquamarine. They also have a new wireless multimedia mini-desktop keyboard that I haven't tried. From time to time, you'll find other websites putting these keyboards on sale.

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About Lilly PuTian

  • http://www.ergonomictimes.com Owen

    computer related injuries are a big issue – you can find more info at
    ergonomictimes.com

  • http://www.frogpad.com Linda Marroquin

    The solution is FrogPad, the one handed keyboard.

  • http://murasaki.blog-city.com Purple Tigress

    I looked at the FrogPad. It has normal sized keys. One of its plugs is that most people use the hunt-and-peck which I do not do.

    While presenting a unique key layout, the ergonomics have been shown to significantly shorten learning time compared with the traditional QWERTY layout (university studies indicate new users can reach 40 words per minute in 10 hours versus the 56 needed with QWERTY). Since over 75% of all users do not touch type but use a “hunt and peck” approach, the FrogPad presents an opportunity for faster keyboard input.

    I’m not sure why one would want to hold a document or other items while entering info, another plug for this product. That’s a bit too much multitasking.

    I wonder if one was using just one hand instead of two if the repetitive motion problems wouldn’t increase. My problem was the full-sized keys which are made for adults of a normal size.

    I also did accounting work and the smaller number keys on my A4 Tech or my Little Fingers is much easier for me to use without looking.

    It also doesn’t seem to provide for usage of graphic arts programs.

    So I do not think the FrogPad is the answer for someone whose hands will remain as small as mine.

  • Anonymous

    Was looking for this exact commentary. Which A4 tech keyboard do you use? Thank you.