Important factors to consider when using keyboards are their design and placement, as well as the postures and techniques the user adopts. The keyboard should allow the user to work with maximum possible comfort and efficiency.
The conventional keyboard is rectangular and flat, with alphabetic, numeric and other function keys laid out in a fairly generic way. older ‘standard’ keyboards may be thicker (deeper) and angled so that the rear of the keyboard is considerably higher than the front of the keyboard.
A key separation (the distance from centre to centre of adjacent keys [centreline spacing]) of 19mm is typical for most keyboards and considered suitable for most adults. Certain users with special needs or keyboards used in certain environments (e.g. cold environments where protection equipment is worn) may require greater distances between keys. Keyboards used by children or females with small hands may require smaller distances between keys (12mm to 14mm), as is often the case with portable or handheld devices with integrated keyboards.
A number of alternative keyboards designed to promote neutral wrist and forearm positions are also available. The suitability of the different keyboard styles will depend on the individual user and the nature of the work tasks. Computer users suffering from physical conditions may benefit from trialling alternative keyboards, or even considering software options such as voice-recognition software.
The keyboard is not the only factor affecting wrist, forearm and shoulder posture. other important factors include desk and chair height, along with the positioning of the keyboard on the work surface and how the work is organised. These will affect posture regardless of whether a conventional or alternative keyboard is used.