The iPad and Disabled Users: Five Ways That This Device May Be of Assistance

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The iPad has been a major structural change for home computing and the format allows for a number of different ways of approaching the computer system.  The screen itself is its interface for control, which allows a completely different form of interaction that may be more accessible for people with certain disabilities.  At the same time the iPad comes in a tradition, which was also extended from the iPhone, around an operating system that allows for the inclusion of users with disabilities.   Here are a few of the most important ways that the iPad can assist with users who have disabilities.

 1. The Touch Screen

The touch screen technology, in combination with the screen size, has been incredibly accessible for those who have limited mobility.  Recent stories have discussed the ability of those with muscular and skeletal diseases to interact with the touch screen in a way that conventional computers have been difficult.  This can add to the ability of people with certain conditions to communicate and to interact with software, and it can be integrated into daily life very easily.

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Many academics that have been working with disabilities have noticed how this could work especially well for victimes of strokes who have been limited, especially in their communication.  Audio based software that would transfer simple touch commands into vocal words could allow for standard communication from those who lack the physical ability to do so, which would be an incredible benefit.  Beyond this is could allow users with this limited mobility to read books without having to manage the physical item itself, control media devices, and interact with the outside world easily.  The areas of illness that the iPad could affect in this situation is huge, especially around muscular dystrophy, spinal chord injuries, and deformaties that limit hand gestures.

 2. VoiceOver

VoiceOver was a feature that started over on the iPhone and iPod Touch and allows the text and images that are visual on the iPad to be made into audio for deaf users.  This allows you to just browse your fingers around the surface of the iPad onto different areas and hear what the description of these items is so that you can easily make choices.  VoiceOver has also been made available for apps themselves so users can begin to develop applications that are specifically for blind users.

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This is only part of what will help blind people work with the iPad even better, but the ability to increase text and icons will allow people with limited sight the ability to finally use a hand held device.  In the UK, the Royal National Institute of Blind People have brought commendations to Apple for its ability to bring in blind users into standard iPad use.  The mobility and use for communication has the ability to improve the lives of those who have not been able to see many computer monitors, or even iPods because of their size.

The story of how this can really change lives can only be told from someone that has really been affected personally.  Austin Seraphin scoffed at the idea that Apple would begin developing devices that could speak to his disability but, first with the iPhone and then with the iPad, he was proven that major step forwards are being made to include him as well.

Behind the Curtain: Austin Seraphin’s Blog

 3. Mono Audio

In the same situation as VoiceOver, the iPad allows for mono audio options if your hearing is limited to just one ear.  This will allow the audio that was normally allowed for each ear individually to come out of both headphones equally, allow you the ability to hear all the audio information.  This can also be used in conjunction with special iPad headphones that will make this even easier for those who are hearing impaired.


 4. Accessibility Settings

The Accessibility settings on the iPad actually take some of the other features a step further in that it will allow the features for disabled users right from the start without any extra outside software.  You will be able to add closed captioning, zoom for those with sight difficulties, and the other features mentioned just by selecting these settings options.

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 5. iPad Disability Apps

The iPad is really just a vessel for iPad apps, in the same way that the iPhone is.  Now that the technology is becoming increasingly popular we have found that developers have begun creating application software for disabled users that can help in different tasks as needed.  The numbers of these apps are growing, but the accessibility has its roots in the structure of the iPad and its ability to be used freely in most situations.

This is really going to begin extending to iPad users with autism as the ability to create developmentally specific iPad apps is becoming a topic of great interest.  Here the bridge between apps for enabling disabled people and those that provide real content will merge, allowing users with developmental impairments the ability to do many of the same things that everyone can on portable devices.  What this means for education is astounding in that it could allow users with autism, down syndrome, and other types of neurological variances their own personal device where they could have customizable applications that meet their own needs or weaknesses.


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