I received a question from a technology teacher about typing apps that could be used to help students learn keyboarding skills. One of the apps that I recommended is the Typer web-app from the American Printing House for the Blind, and today I will be sharing my tips for learning how to type with Typer and my experience with using Typer with my own assistive technologies.
What is Typer?
Typer is a free web-based app from the American Printing House for the Blind that allows users to practice their typing skills. Unlike the APH Talking Typer app, Typer uses existing assistive technology settings to help users learn how to type and familiarize themselves with a keyboard so that users can practice typing with familiar tools such as their favorite screen reader and screen magnification tools. Users don’t need to create an account to use Typer, though they will need to note what lesson they are on as the app does not store progress.
How to access Typer
Since Typer is a web-based app, users can access it from any device that can access the internet by going to the Typer website. Typer is also still in Beta, so users can submit feedback and feature suggestions by subscribing to the Typer email list by sending an email to the email address linked in the APH blog post linked below. I tested Typer using my iPad and Windows computer using the Microsoft Edge browser- for some reason, it did not work in my Google Chrome browser.
- Typer web app link
- Typer blog post from APH
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Do I need a special keyboard to use Typer?
Any standard QWERTY keyboard that can be connected to a device will work well with Typer. This includes Bluetooth keyboards, USB keyboards, and other keyboards that feature the QWERTY layout. Typer will also work without a keyboard and use the built-in device keyboard for users who want to practice typing on their digital keyboard.
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After going to the Typer website, users can access over 30 different lessons that cover different sections of the keyboard, including different sections of the keyboard as well as punctuation and special characters. Each set of words/characters is displayed on the screen or read out loud, and users type the different characters as instructed, typing the space bar after every line. At the end of the lesson, a message displays the number of words typed, estimated words per minute typed, the number of errors, and the percentage of correct words typed. Users can then advance to the next lesson, or return to the lesson list to choose a new lesson- lessons can be completed in any order.
Using Typer with large print and screen magnification
While the Typer app is optimized for screen readers, it still works well with large print and screen magnification tools. For some reason, the letters for the typing exercises did not show up at all on my Google Chrome browser, though this was not a problem when I switched to Microsoft Edge. When using Magnifier, I prefer to use the Docked view so that I can easily see each line of text, and scroll back and forth so that I can see the text as I type. The Lens view is also a great option for users who benefit from the smaller magnification window.
On my iPad, I found that I didn’t need to use Zoom magnifier when reading text within my web browser, as I was able to use the pinch-to-zoom gesture without any issues. One of my friends who also played with the Typer app said that they preferred to use it with an inverted display as they find it easier to read white text on a dark background, so they enabled the Classic Invert display on their iPad, which can be configured in settings.
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Using Typer with a screen reader
Typer is designed to be used with a screen reader, and can easily be accessed independently with popular tools including NVDA, VoiceOver, and similar tools. However, users will need to configure their screen reader settings to ensure that punctuation is read out loud so that the entire line of words or characters can be read accurately. Users who are still new to screen readers can still follow along with Typer, though they may be confused by pronunciation quirks, such as how some screen readers pronounce asdf and fdsa.
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Summary of Typer app
- Typer is a free website that works with assistive technology tools like screen magnification and screen readers
- Typer can be accessed online and does not require any downloads
- Users can practice Typer with their device’s built-in keyboard or an external keyboard
- Typer works well with or without a screen reader and supports the ability to enlarge text, making it a great large print typing program
- Screen reader users will need to configure their pronunciation settings so that punctuation can be read out loud and words are read correctly