StickyKeys: Turning off accessibility keyboard shortcuts

One "hidden" feature in Windows is a series of keyboard commands that turn on accessibility functions for the disabled. People who turn these commands (like StickyKeys) on by accident may think their keyboard is malfunctioning. Here's how to disable these options through Control Panel.

One of the "hidden" features in Windows that can throw off the uninitiated is a series of keyboard commands that turn on accessibility functions for the disabled.

These commands are handy for people who might have trouble working a regular keyboard, but they've been known to cause big problems for people who turn them on by accident and don't know how to turn them off. They've led people to think the keyboard has a problem, or else the keyboard driver.

The most common accessibility shortcut that gets enabled by accident is StickyKeys. This causes the Shift, Ctrl or Alt keys to remain held down when tapped (so that someone can operate them without needing more than one finger at a time).

StickyKeys is enabled by tapping the Shift key five times in a row, something that might seem difficult to do by accident but which does happen. (I once turned on StickyKeys when idly tapping the Shift key out of boredom, and only after a panicked moment realized what I'd done.) And when it does happen, people find that their keyboard seems to be malfunctioning for some inexplicable reason.

Microsoft's reason for default-enabling keyboard shortcuts for accessibility options was to allow people with disabilities to sit down at any Windows computer and be able to use it, unhindered. In theory, it's a good idea. But unless you're administering machines that are publicly available or that might possibly be used in such circumstances, it might be better to simply disable the accessibility shortcuts by default to prevent someone accidentally triggering them without realizing it.

To disable these options through Control Panel, select Accessibility Options | Keyboard, uncheck each of the "Use" boxes, and then click "Settings" for each accessibility option and disable the "Use shortcut" box. You can then also set a Group Policy option to ensure they're not changed in the future.

If you want to change these options manually through a script or Group Policy Option, they're stored in the Registry under HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Control Panel\Accessibility. Set the Flags value to 506 in the StickyKeys subkey, 58 for ToggleKeys, 58 for MouseKeys and 122 for Keyboard Response to disable them all. If you open up the Registry and observe these values while changing the Control Panel settings, you can inspect the values created and use those for more fine-grained changes.

Finally, be sure to record these changes somewhere, so that a person who needs these features can get access to them later if they have to.

About the author: Serdar Yegulalp is editor of the Windows Power Users Newsletter, which is devoted to hints, tips, tricks, news and goodies for Windows NT, Windows 2000 and Windows XP users and administrators. He has more than 10 years of Windows experience under his belt, and contributes regularly to SearchWinComputing.com and SearchSQLServer.com.

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This was first published in December 2006

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