All student with any degree of vision loss or multiple disabilities can learn to type. Here’s how best to teach them.


From Teaching Tips Tuesday



Jared: Welcome to Teaching Tips Tuesday my name is Jared Kittleson, Chief Operating Officer here at the Foundation for Blind Children, and today I’m joined by Jenny Wheeler. Jenny, welcome to Teaching Tips Tuesday.

Jenny: Thank you for having me Jared.

Jared: Jenny, what do you do at Foundation for Blind Children?

Jenny: Jared, at Foundation for Blind Children I am a Braille transcriber, I also work in Braille curriculum as a manager.

Jared: So, I understand [for] today’s Teaching Tip you are gonna talk to us about teaching students with either a severe visual impairment or multiple disabilities how to type. Is that correct?

Jenny: Jared this is one of my favorite topics and I’m excited to share it with you.

Jared: I’m very interested to hear what you have to say! So, so starting off how–how is teaching students with that severe visual impairment or–or multiple disabilities different than teaching um, less, less severe needs?

Jenny: Well Jared, one of the most important things is that the commercially available with voice feedback might not work, and that’s typically what we use for our students with severe visual impairments. A program like Talking Typer which is an excellent program, but for our kids with multiple disabilities that might not work as well, and one of the major reasons for that is attention span. A student with multiple disabilities might have a much shorter attention span and his willingness to continue to focus on typing tasks might really vary, might only last a few minutes–it’s not going to last the length of an entire formal lesson.

Jared: [nods head in understanding] 

Jenny: Another really, um, important thing is that students with multiple disabilities are very focused on the things that interest them. I know this is true of all students, but for kids with multiple disabilities what you choose to use as a topic in your lesson might make all of the difference in whether that student’s willing to focus. For example, if you have a student who loves comic book characters, and you allow that student to learn how to type a comic book character’s name, [stutters] and you create a formal program that’s entirely dependent on that student’s interest in that character, then you’re going to get a lot more interest than if you simply follow a typical typing program. It really depends and you have to be very flexible; the other thing that you need is routine, and you need to be very specific about how long a lesson is going to last. Many students without multiple disabilities they’ll go for a while without worrying about when the lesson is going to end, but students that I’ve worked with multiple disabilities, they need to know exactly what they’re going to be doing, they often want to know exactly how many words they’re gonna be typing, they want to know when this is going to be over, and they want to know what is their reward once they’re all done. So, you have to be very focused on a lesson that really fits their routine needs. Also–and this is really important–they might need a high level of teacher interaction, so, a student without multiple disabilities might be willing to go through an entire Talking Typer lesson without a whole lot of feedback from you because the computer provides the feedback, but, a student with multiple disabilities is different and will probably expect the feedback to come all from you, and so it’s not going to necessarily be independence that you’re seeking for in a student’s learning style–it’s going to be interdependence so you’re going to work together to achieve Mastery. You’re going to be partners in the experience, you can’t just expect a student to sit there the whole time and do it by himself.

Jared: All right. Excellent. [stammers] Those are some excellent strategies, any other strategies that you like to include when working with your students?

Jenny: Um Jared, if it’s okay I would just like to include a brief overview–

Jared: Sure [nodding head in approval]

Jenny: –the kind of typing that you could put a student through

Jared: Absolutely.

Jenny: –these are things that I have found will help a lot.

Jared: [nods head]


To help students better locate the home row on a keyboard

  • place a sticker/easily located bump on “F” or “J”

*Feel free to experiment with location, every student is unique and may benefit from stickers on different/multiple letters

To help students find the keys on the home row of a keyboard

  1. Carefully guide them, using as little as one finger to help
  2. After some time, transition to verbal direction for guidance
  3. Start “finger isolation” (each of the student’s finger’s must be able to move by themselves and separately hit a key without another finger intervening)

*Avoid as little physical intervention as possible as this will increase their personal orientation and decrease their dependence on others. Also remember to continuously customize each lesson taught to your student’s interests to retain high levels of engagement.

When choosing a typing program for formal instruction for a student in an Emergency Literacy Program

  1. Get creative and choose a fun program! (i.e., Dance Mat Typing, Talking Typer)
  2. Become the voice” and write out the entire program (i.e., Word Document) to gain control and curate the program according to your student’s needs and readiness
  3. Once beginning, slowly transition starting with letter-by-letter, eventually grouping letters into words

*Patience is Key. Take as much time as needed for your student to succeed, i.e., setting one large goal with checkpoints to check progress along the way.

*Mistakes must be made and encouraged. Do not overcorrect your student no matter how many times it takes for them to achieve success in a given exercise for the exception of finger placement.

If you’re student poses interest in a letter outside of your current lesson plan/goal, take the time to teach them this as a special treat. The more verbal “treats” you are able to reward, the more successful you will be in the end.

Jared: Those are some great strategies, Jenny do you have any takeaways whether it be for fellow TVI’s, uh, other educators, community members, parents, that you know, in relation to helping support these children’s goals or student’s goals on typing?

Jenny: I do, I have two major takeaways:

  1. Keep your lessons short. Especially at first, it is best to keep lessons at a maximum of 2-3, lasting an average of 10 minutes. Regardless, keep in mind that every student is different and that even with a student who is excited to learn, lessons are best kept to a short length.
  2. Don’t assume that you have any students who can’t learn to touch-type. While this does require a certain amount of motor dexterity, any student can learn to touch-type.

Jared: Jenny those some great types, I certainly appreciate your time today, and um, that was wonderful.

Jenny: Thank you so much Jared, I’ve enjoyed it very much.