I am intrigued by the iPad’s potential as a computer for people with intellectual disabilities (ID). It could be set up as a Web-access only device, and essential functions could be Web-based. This could be done with computers, but the iPad has at least two distinct advantages.
- no or low hardware-maintenance
- minimal management of software updates and installation
These advantages alone are enormous in terms of overall ease-of-use. They are also great for dramatically reducing long-term technical support- and training costs compared to those needed for computers.
I think that to make an iPad truly useful for people with ID, an even simpler interface could be developed for it. I imagine that, upon being turned on, the iPad could present three or four buttons.
One button could start a Web-based e-mail app, such as CogLink that is designed for people with ID, or one with which a user is already familar, such as Yahoo Mail.
A button could start a Web browser app, like Web Trek, which is designed for people with ID.
Another button could start an augmentative-communication app. They exist already. Jane Farrall recently posted a list of iPhone/iPad augmentative communication apps on the Spectronics Blog.
An iPad, with a simple-to use interface similar to those presented by augmentative communication apps, would be a lot less expensive than single purpose AC devices or multi-function computers.
Readers may be interested in these articles:
- All eyes on iPad, a Great Schools article, by Valle Dwight, which describes how the iPad might be a an assistive-technology device for her son with Down Syndrome.
- iPad Accessibility, an Anikto blog article by Kel Smith, which discusses the iPad’s potential for people with cognitive disabilities.
- Seven Days with the iPad: An Accessibility Evaluation by Darren Burton of The American Federation for the Blind.
Note: For the purpose of exploring the iPad’s potential for people with intellectual / cognitive disabilities, one was generously provided to me by the project for which I work, New England INDEX at the Shriver Center, part of The University of Massachusetts Medical School.