Finalist category: AbilityNet Accessibility Award


AbilityNet Accessibility Award, Finalist, 2017

Typing with eyesight and changing millions of lives

OptiKey, a new assistive on-screen keyboard, has the potential to change millions of lives.

“OptiKey was written to challenge the outrageously expensive, unreliable and difficult to use AAC (alternative and augmentative communication) products on the market. It is therefore fully open-source and free. Forever,” said Julius Sweetland from OptiKey.

The keyboard runs on Windows and is designed to be used with low-cost eye-tracking devices. It brings keyboard control, mouse control and speech to people with motor and speech limitations- such as Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) / Motor Neuron Disease (MND).

It is simple to use once you have your eye-tracking device installed. The innovative system allows selections to be made using dwell selection (where someone holds their gaze over a letter), as well as by using physical buttons and assistive devices. If you do not have an eye-tracking device you can use OptiKey with a mouse or your webcam.

OptiKey is an amazing alternative to a physical keyboard, allowing people to type into any application. It speeds up the whole process by automatically inserting spaces between words and capitalising letters. Users can even type whole words and phrases in a single selection by “swiping” or using “auto-complete”.

It’s an outstanding example of tech for good overcoming a challenging and expensive accessibility issue, through personal persistence, dedication and clever engineering.

This project demonstrates how with grit and determination, it is possible to change things for the better, harnessing cutting-edge technology in an open and collaborative way.