Lately, everyone has been talking about the Apple® iPad®. It’s on everyone’s Christmas list this year, because it can be used for many applications. You can send e-mail with the iPad, play music via iTunes, download pictures, surf the web and much more.
The number of apps available on the iPad is amazing. While most of these apps have been designed for general consumption, many of them have been created to meet the needs of individuals with some form of cognitive, visual, physical or communication issues. In this respect, the iPad has become an assistive technology .
There are many apps available to help people with communication deficits “speak.” I recommend “Speak-It” and “ProLoQuo2Go,” which allow users to type or select words and phrases that are then synthesized. In essence, these apps give voice to the voiceless.
The iTouch and iPhone devices are popular, in part, because of their innovative touch-screen design. However, many people with disabilities have trouble seeing or physically accessing the icons. The devices are just too small.
The iPad solves this problem. The iPad offers a larger surface area, which makes it easier for people with disabilities to see and select the icons. For people with visual deficits, the “read back” feature built into the iPad can help them select the right icons.
For people who cannot select icons because of a physical disability, there are several apps that allow them to control the iPad with their voices. I recommend the Dragon Dictate and Dragon Search apps, which provide at least some level of access for these individuals. For people who rely on wheelchairs for mobility, there are even wheelchair mounts for the iPad.
With specialized reading and writing apps, the iPad offers benefits for children and adults with learning disabilities. These apps familiarize users with the building blocks of written language, and they do it in a fun and interactive manner. As anyone who works with individuals with learning disabilities can attest, fun is a key ingredient to learning.
The iPad is opening a world of possibilities for people with physical and cognitive disabilities alike. For these individuals, the iPad promises access, education and fun. Best of all, it offers solutions.
The certified assistive technology practitioners in Good Shepherd’s Assistive Technology Program  use the iPad to help improve independence for people with disabilities.