Since she was in school in the 1970s and 1980s, Sarah used an electric typewriter, fitted with a metal keyguard. She would later use a computer keyboard, again fitted with a metal keyguard, which helps with the accuracy of typing. However, the separate parts result in injuries and hygiene issues.
The keyboard and keyguard are separate products, and in conversation with her father, Sarah decided to explore how to make this into one sealed unit. Sarah worked with her mother to find a manufacturer and partnered with Diamond Electronics Ltd in Cheshire. She said:
Taking our concept of a keyboard with sunken keys to eliminate the need for a keyguard, Diamond worked with us, enabling me to try a range of materials and key depths. They took on board what I don’t like about the crude and utilitarian nature of separate keyboards and keyguards.
From Sarah’s experiences and research, people with disabilities such as Parkinson’s, Acquired Brain Injury, and Muscular Dystrophy can lack accuracy and control, and it is easy to press an unwanted key, or more than one key at a time.
Working with Diamond, the Springboard PC-1 Keyboard was created. It is a non-slip black silicone keyboard that is backlit and has medical grade antimicrobial surface coating and a washable IP65 sealed design, meaning it is water resistant and protected against dust ingress.
The Springboard offers a solution to this problem, whilst also presenting an answer to hygienic issues, which can be particularly problematic in schools where sharing equipment is more common.
With its sunken keys, the Springboard offers the functionality of a keyboard with a keyguard, but without the separate parts.
The Springboard is VAT free in the UK under disability exemption.
Sarah has kindly donated one of these specialist keyboards to be used by the University's Disability Support Team and is offering a 20% discount to alumni (the code lboro20 is active online until 31 October 2021).