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Computer Numpad Part 1: Learning the Numpad

Why should you teach students to use a numpad?

Ringers on a numpad (numeric keyboard)

A tech savvy colleague once told me that he would never purchase a computer that did not have a built-in numpad. As an educator with vision, I had never considered the benefits of a keyboard with a numpad for students. Personally, I rarely use a computer numpad; although, my husband, who has a career revolving around numbers and spreadsheets, is a wizard at using a numpad. Why would a numpad be a critical tool for a student who uses JAWS or NVDA?

What is a computer numpad?

A numpad is also known as a number pad, numeric keypad or ten key. It is usually palm-sized and typically has 17 keys; numpads are typically located on the far right side of a computer keyboard. Numpads are designed for entering large amounts of numbers quickly. JAWS and NVDA take advantage of numpads, using these keys for screen reader navigation shortcuts.

Note: Not all computer keyboards have a numpad. Bluetooth keyboards are available with numpads and separate external numpad keyboards (both wired and Bluetooth) are available for computers and tablets.

If using a Mac computer (and external numpad), enable Numpad Commander. (See Apple’s VoiceOver User Guide for details.)

Numpad Layouts

There are two different numpad layouts: 1, 2, 3 on the top row or 1, 2, 3 on the bottom.

Mobile phones and ATM machines are examples of numpads with 1, 2, 3 on the top row. The image below is a screenshot of the four row, 3 column numpad screen used when dialing a mobile phone. This image has 1, 2, 3 in the top row, 4, 5, 6, in the second row, 7, 8, 9 in the third row and *, 0, # in the bottom row.

mobile phone numpad

The standard numpad on a computer is a 5 row, 4 column grid with Numlock, /, *, – in the top row. 7, 8, 9 with the top half of the + key are in the second row. 4, 5, 6 with the bottom half of the + key are in the third row. 1, 2, 3 and top half of the Enter key are in the fourth row. The 0 key (takes up the first two spaces), delete key, and bottom half of the Enter key are in the bottom row.

All computer numpads have 1, 2, 3 on the bottom of the number keypad; however, some computer keypads may have extra symbol keys.

Note: The + and Enter keys cover two rows and the 0 key covers two columns.

The image below is a computer numpad keyboard.

Standard computer numpad

Teaching numpads

Numpads are used in daily living: Making phone calls, paying at checkout registers, bank machines, calculators and shortcut screen reader commands are just a few examples. Students begin using calculators in elementary school. Have you specifically taught your student about numpads? O&M instructors, are you incorporating numpads in your community lessons?

Learning numeric keypad layout: Activities has wonderful suggestions for introducing numpads to BLV students.

Part 2 in this numpad series will discuss NVDA numpad commands (and simple tricks to remember these commands). Computer numpad part 2: NVDA review cursor video tutorial post.

by Diane Brauner

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