“Touch typing” with an on-screen keyboard: Virtual Keyboard meets Window Eyes

Note: The following will not work for typing in scan mode–only for a pointing device and a switch assigned to clicking. However, if your pointing device emulates a mouse using switches, that will work.

I posted before that I had a hell of a time getting Virtual Keyboard to work with screen readers without having the text output mangled. Fortunately, GW Micro has offered the Window Eyes screen reader to people with licensed versions of Microsoft Office, including Starter. Window Eyes appears to be the only screen reader that doesn’t screw up my text. So, enter the possibility of  “touch typing” on an onscreen keyboard.

1. Turn off dwell clicking in your onscreen keyboard.

2. Turn on Window Eyes. Bring it up by pressing Control Backslash and select Help, then select Show Advanced Options.

3. Expand the Mouse side menu and select Voice.

4. From the dropdown on the right, select one of the On options.

5. Mouse over the keyboard slowly to hear the letters and words and get a feel for the distance between them. Then accept your letter or word by clicking the switch.

6. If you’re using word prediction, it might speed things up if you turn off the learning function. That way, you’ll have a more consistent idea of when your words will show up so you don’t have to wander your cursor around more than you have to. Setting up shorthand expansions in AutoHotkey or your word processor might also be helpful.

Note: Window Eyes will interact with your other programs, too, not just Office. (Jarte Plus will automatically start in Screen Reader Mode, in fact.) However, there are glitches. For instance, I couldn’t type into the Tags field of this post; Window Eyes couldn’t tell the text cursor was in a text field and took letters for shortcut keys. Tumblr seems to break text fields sometimes as well. Also, it doesn’t always read Dragon’s correction menus even with the accessible menus option turned on.

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