AbilityNet Factsheet - April 2022

Keyboard – Single Handed Use

Some people can only use the keyboard with one hand. This factsheet gives you some advice on the most effective ways of doing this.

Last updated: April 2022

1. Typing options

‘Sticky Keys’ feature

Many software programs require you to press two or three keys at one time. For single handed users this may be difficult. Software built in to computers called ‘StickyKeys’ allows you to press one key at a time which modifies the response as if the keys had been pressed simultaneously. AbilityNet’s ‘My Computer My Way’ shows you how to use ‘StickyKeys’ on different platforms.

Smaller Keyboards

Cherry 84 keyboardSingle handed users may benefit from using smaller keyboards which present keys in a more compact area than a standard keyboard, and therefore require less movement. These are similar in size to those found on laptop computers.

It is important that the keyboard is placed in a comfortable position for easy operation.

Number Pad

Cherry number padThe numeric pad on a standard keyboard is located on the right-hand side of the keyboard - this can present left handed users with a considerable stretch. A separate number pad can therefore be placed in a natural position to reduce awkward postures.

Touch Typing with One Hand

It is possible to learn to touch type using one hand and there are software-based typing tutors such as Five Finger Typist, from Inclusive Technology that provide tutorials in this.

Dvorak Layout

The standard QWERTY layout is not optimised for single handed use.  Dvorak layouts for right- and left-handed use attempt to correct this.  Alphabetic keys are relocated to one side of the keyboard, using all four rows, with numbers being positioned to the side.

Single Handed Keyboards

Malton right-handed keyboardA keyboard which has been specifically designed for single handed use. Matching natural hand movement through adapted key arrangement minimises finger movement.  It requires good dexterity and has been designed for touch typing using 4 fingers and thumb.  Both Left- and Right-hand models are designed for ‘Touch Typing’.

Windows keys are included, and ‘push-on/off’ keys control essential for singe hand use for Shift, Control and Alt functions. Examples of single-handed keyboards include Tipy. 

Chord Keyboard

CykeyChord keyboards have only a few keys and rely on keys being pressed in combination to generate letters.  They therefore work well for single handed users with independent movement in each of their fingers.

Reduce Key Strikes with Predictive Text

Predictive text exampleAfter typing the first few letters of a word, predictive software gives a number of words starting with those letters.  To complete the word the user simply selects one of the words offered.  For longer words this can offer speed improvements.

Mobile technology commonly incorporates this strategy to speed up text entry.

Assistive Technology Software that incorporates predictive text: Co-Writer, TextHelp Read & Write, Penfriend, Claro Read.

Auto-text Entry

Most word processing packages have facilities to store blocks of text against a particular word or keystroke.  These are often called macros, but also go by other names: glossary, Auto-text, Quickparts etc.  Once a macro is defined it can be entered anywhere in the current document by using a short keystroke or word.

In situations where there are no built-in macro facilities, there are a number of add-on packages giving the same facilities. You can create macros within Microsoft office products.

Gaming keyboards

There are lots of single-handed keyboards designed for gamers. Here is a review of the best ones to consider. 


2. Useful contacts

3. How AbilityNet can help you

My Computer My Way

My Computer My Way is an AbilityNet run website packed with articles explaining how to use the accessibility features built into your computer, tablet or smartphone. The site is routinely updated as new features and changes are made to the Windows, MacOS, iOS, Chrome OS and Android operating systems. The site is broken down into the following sections:

  • Vision – computer adjustments to do with vision and colour
  • Hearing – computer adjustments to do with hearing, communication and speech
  • Motor – computer adjustments to do mobility, stamina and dexterity
  • Cognitive – computer adjustments to do with attention, learning and memory

Use it for free at mcmw.abilitynet.org.uk

Advice and information

If you have any questions please contact us at AbilityNet and we will do all we can to help.

  • Call: 0300 180 0028
    Please note: calls to our helpline number cost no more than a national rate call to an 01 or 02 number and count towards any inclusive minutes in the same way as 01 and 02 calls, and AbilityNet does not receive any money from these calls.
  • Email: enquiries@abilitynet.org.uk

IT support at Home

If you’re looking for in-person support, you can book a free visit from one of our disclosure-checked volunteers. Many of our volunteers are former IT professionals who give their time to help older people and people with disabilities to use technology to achieve their goals. Our friendly volunteers can help with most major computer systems, laptops, tablet devices and smartphones.


Copyright information

This factsheet is licensed by AbilityNet under the Creative Commons Attribution-Non Commercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License. View a copy of this license at creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/3.0/

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