iPad drawing interest as device for disabled

Apr 18, 2010 by Chris Lefkow
Most people view the iPad as a slick multi-media entertainment platform, but Gregg Vanderheiden, a university professor, sees other potential uses for Apple's new touchscreen device.

Most people view the iPad as a slick multi-media entertainment platform, but Gregg Vanderheiden, a university professor, sees other potential uses for Apple's new touchscreen device.

"Say you have somebody who's had a , for example, and they wake up and they can't communicate," said Vanderheiden, director of the Trace Research and Development Center at the University of Wisconsin at Madison.

"Instead of buying a 5,000-dollar communications aid you take out your and download an app and -- bam! -- they can communicate," he told AFP.

The Trace Center helps people who are unable to speak and have disabilities to communicate and Vanderheiden is one of a number of researchers and others excited about the iPad as a relatively low-cost communications tool.

"There's a lot of interest in the iPad," said Karen Sheehan, the executive director of the Alliance for Technology Access, a California-based group that seeks to expand the use of technology by children and adults with disabilities.

Stroke victims, people with , cerebral palsy or ALS, a paralysing nerve disease, and children or adults with autism are seen as just some of those who could potentially benefit from the iPad.

"Anyone who's non-verbal and needs a device to speak for them," said Sheehan. "People with Alzheimer's who do better with graphic-based communication boards instead of trying to search for a word.

"People with , soldiers coming back from Iraq or people who've been in automobile accidents."

Sheehan said "there are a lot of powerful communications devices out there, some very good companies, but they tend to run into the thousands of dollars, which can be prohibitive for a lot of people.

"You can take the iPad and turn it into a communications device very inexpensively," she said.

The cheapest iPad costs 499 dollars and the most expensive 829 dollars.

A company called AssistiveWare has already adapted for the iPad a communications application called "Proloquo2Go" it designed for the iPhone and the iPod Touch and is offering it for 189.99 dollars in Apple's App Store.

"Prologuo2Go" allows people who have difficulty speaking to communicate using symbols to represent phrases or by typing in what they want to say and having it converted by text-to-speech technology into a natural sounding voice.

Sheehan said the iPad's large touchscreen makes it potentially more useful to a wider range of people than the iPhone or the iPod Touch.

"They're such a small area and for someone who has limited fine motor it's hard to hit small icons," she said. "It's easier on the iPad to just click on an icon to say 'I want juice,' or 'I want to watch a movie.'"

Joanne Castellano, the director of New Jersey-based TechConnection, which provides "assistive technology" solutions to people with disabilities, said the "avid Mac users" in her office are "chomping at the bit" for an iPad.

"They keep asking me 'When are we getting one?'" she said.

"I'm sure we'll get one," Castellano said. "It seems like it would be something very useful to the community that we serve."

"For anybody who has a reading challenge it's useful because it has a nice feature where it reads books out to you," she said.

Castellano agreed that the touchscreen controls are part of the attraction of the device but said some of the gestures could prove challenging to some.

"The way you have to pinch some things with your thumb and your forefinger -- that movement might be a problem for some people," she said. "But to turn the page of a book you just have to swipe it so that could be very helpful."

Dan Herlihy of Connective Technology Solutions said he would be adding the iPad shortly to his "treasure chest" of hardware and software tools he uses to address the needs of people with disabilities.

"And I can already think of about half a dozen things I'll run on it," he said, touting its potential use, for example, as an educational device for children with dexterity issues.

"For some kids it's a lot easier to just put your finger on something and drag it than it is to have to click and drag and drop with a mouse," he said.

The Trace Center's Vanderheiden said the iPad is a "great platform -- small, inexpensive, a lot of power, a long battery," but its greatest contribution to the needs of the disabled may be from the applications built for the device.

"They offer the opportunity for just tremendous, unprecedented innovation," he said. "The really key part is that it's a development platform that allows people to be creative. That's where the power comes from."

Explore further: Gift Guide: Strong photo, video gear options

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Amazon routes Kindle books to rival iPad

Apr 03, 2010

Amazon.com on Friday released an application that lets people read digitized Kindle books on rival iPad tablet computers poised to debut in the United States.

iPad neat, but I'm waiting for ver. 2.0

Jan 30, 2010

After playing with Apple's iPad at its press debut Wednesday, I want to buy one -- just not yet. One of technology's truisms is that version 2.0 is almost always much better than version 1.0. So it's usually ...

Over 300,000 iPads sold on first day: Apple

Apr 05, 2010

Apple said Monday it sold more than 300,000 iPads in the United States on its first day of availability, a figure in line with predictions of some analysts but fewer than others expected.

Videogame makers racing to develop iPad games

Mar 07, 2010

As an electronic reader, Apple's iPad has been touted as a possible "Kindle killer" but what has videogame makers buzzing is the potential of the touchscreen tablet computer as a gaming platform.

Critics, fans weigh in on Apple's iPad

Jan 28, 2010

Heady from the success of the iPhone and iPod, Apple is getting spanked with criticism, even mockery, by pundits who expected the company to change the world anew with its iPad tablet computer.

Recommended for you

Ear-check via phone can ease path to diagnosis

Dec 18, 2014

Ear infections are common in babies and young children. That it is a frequent reason for young children's visit to doctors comes as no consolation for the parents of babies tugging at their ears and crying ...

Gift Guide: Home products come with connectivity

Dec 18, 2014

Do you really need an app to tell you to brush and floss? It seems every household appliance is getting some smarts these days, meaning some connection to a phone app and the broader Internet. But then what?

BlackBerry launches Classic in last-ditch effort

Dec 17, 2014

(AP)—BlackBerry is returning to its roots with a new phone that features a traditional keyboard at a time when rival Apple and Android phones—and most smartphone customers—have embraced touch screens.

Tag Heuer changes tune, now looking at smartwatches

Dec 16, 2014

Barely a few months after dismissing Apple's smartwatch, the new chief executive of luxury Swiss watchmaker Tag Heuer conceded Tuesday that such a hi-tech gadget might after all have a place in his firm's ...

User comments : 2

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

Auxon
not rated yet Apr 18, 2010
"They offer the opportunity for just tremendous, unprecedented innovation," he said. "The really key part is that it's a development platform that allows people to be creative. That's where the power comes from."

Until they told people who were working on applications for it that they can't use they language and platform they were using to develop those applications.
DaveGee
not rated yet Apr 19, 2010
FLASH 'ahem' developers 'ahem' here too?!?!?! /wrists

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.