University of Victoria

Together we CanAssist.


(Note: this application is no longer available,)

Dan Spelt knows his way around a computer. Even with the physical limitations associated with cerebral palsy, he has still learned how to maneuver the keyboard with his mouth. Using a custom keyboard stand designed by CanAssist, he has learned all the keyboard shortcuts to get around windows applications without a mouse.

The user presses the letters that spell the link he or she wishes to select.Though he is very proficient at what would be a cumbersome process for most people, Dan still found all the extra maneuvering very frustrating.

He joked around that he was, “getting older by the “TAB” key,” as he would repeatedly need to press the “TAB” key to get the specific link he desired. The longer or more complex the webpage, the more time-consuming the process became.

“In a world with the Internet so mouse friendly, it raises the question: how about the people who can only use a keyboard for everything on the computer?” Dan asked.

Leo Spalteholz, CanAssist's manager of software, was the right person to find the answer.

Surfing the web is easier now for Dan and many others.Leo – with the help of a team of developers and volunteers – designed KeySurf, a software program that helps people who can use a keyboard but have trouble moving a pointing device, such as mouse, joystick, or trackball to browse the web.

The program lets users quickly navigate to links, images and forms on web pages, simply by pressing the two or three letter keys that spell the name of the desired link. KeySurf works with any device that can produce character output such as: regular computer keyboards; specialized keyboards; on-screen keyboards; and speech recognition software. The program is also designed to remember the user's surfing history and search style, enabling a faster connection.

For Dan, his persistence in the face of many tedious hours on the Internet has paid off. He's been an inspiration to expand Internet horizons for all people with physical limitations, as well as becoming an active participant in the development of further adaptations to KeySurf himself. But most of all, he just enjoys the ease and agility with which he can now browse the web.

“Before KeySurf came along I was very slow online. Now I only have to type the first couple letters of a link and it goes there,” says Dan. “No more tab funny business!”


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