How to use the keyboard with one hand in Mac OS X

This page explains step-by-step how to set up Mac OS X so that you can use the keyboard with one hand. Some commands require a number of keys to be held down at the same time (for example, Apple + S to save). Sticky Keys enables you to select one key at a time.

Note: The following abbreviations for keys on the Mac are used: Ctrl is used for the Control key, Apple is used for the Command key, and Alt is used for the Option key. For keyboard access, make sure 'Full keyboard access' is turned on - you can turn it on or off by pressing Ctrl + F1 at any time.

Use the keyboard with one hand in Mac OS X

Step 1: Open the 'Universal Access' window

Make sure you are in 'Finder'. If necessary, press Apple + Tab to cycle through the open applications until you return to 'Finder'.

Click on the 'Apple' icon on the menu bar or press Ctrl + F2.

Click on 'System Preferences', as shown in Fig 1, or press the down arrow key to highlight it and then press Enter.

Fig 1'Apple' drop-down menu

In the 'System Preferences' window (shown in Fig 2), click on the 'Universal Access' icon, or press Tab repeatedly (you might need to press Ctrl + F7 first) to cycle through the icons until the 'Universal Access' icon is highlighted and then press the Spacebar.

Fig 2'System Preferences' window

Step 2: Turn on Sticky Keys

In the 'Universal Access' window (shown in Fig 3), make sure the 'Keyboard' tab is selected. If it is not, click on it, or press Ctrl + F7 to highlight one of the tabs and then press the left or right arrow key to select it.

Fig 3'Universal Access' window showing 'Keyboard' tab

Click the 'On' radio button next to 'Sticky Keys', as shown in Fig 3, or press Tab to highlight the 'Off' radio button and press the left arrow key to switch Sticky Keys on.

You can customise the settings for Sticky Keys to turn the audio and visual warnings on or off by ticking or unticking the boxes below. For example, if you tick the box next to 'Show pressed keys on screen', you will see images of the keys you've pressed appear in the middle of the screen (Fig 3 shows how it looks when Shift and then Apple have been pressed).

When you are finished, click on the window's red close button or press Apple + W.

Step 3: Using Sticky Keys

To use Sticky Keys, simply press one or more of the modifier keys (Ctrl, Alt, Apple and Shift) in sequence. Then when you press the final key in the sequence, the shortcut will be activated. For example, Shift + Apple + 3 (which takes a picture of the screen).

To turn Sticky Keys on or off at any time, press the Shift key five times.

Back to How to guides - I find a keyboard or mouse hard to use

More ways to: Make your keyboard easier to use

Change the keyboard settings on your computer

Control the pace of repeated keystrokes and avoid miss-keys

Turn on and customise the on-screen keyboard

Use a mouse or other pointing device instead of a keyboard

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