Do It Myself Blog – Glenda Watson Hyatt

Your Accessibility Conscience

The iPad as an Affordable Communicator: Initial Review

Filed under: Living with a disability — by Glenda at 2:22 pm on Saturday, May 15, 2010

The Apple Store in Chicago

While in Chicago, I made a short trek to the Apple Store. My mission was to try out an iPad, which are still unable here in Canada until May 28th, to see if I could reliably use the touch screen with my shaky athetoid cerebral palsy. The reason for wanting an iPad is to use it as a communication device while I’m out and about.

I spent an hour playing with the thing, not quite sure what I was doing. Although I did manage to get a tweet out with minimal typos:

A twitter update reading: Trying an ipad NOW. Test 123. Man, My arm hurts now.need more practice!

Once I had had enough playing, I attracted the attention of the young Apple employee Courtney and indicated that I was ready to buy one. She said they were sold out. My heart sank. Then she found one in the back room, and when an employee looked surprised, she said that one was special. (I sensed a shipment had just arrived, but had yet to be inventoried.)

Courtney spent a good hour with me, activating the device and then setting up an iTunes account to download the Prologuo2Go appp. I was impressed by the time she spent with me, as well as how she treated me. Thanks Courtney!

In the end, I purchased the iPad 32G WiFi, iPad case and the protection plan (I usually don’t buy them, but just in case) for $802.40 USD (including tax) and $215 in iTunes gift cards for the app (there was glitch with me being from Canada and purchasing gift cards to buy the app was the work around). In theory, I now had a communication device plus much more for $1,217.40 USD. That’s what credit cards are for, right?!

I left the Apple Store completely amazed by Courtney’s service, but not totally convinced I had made the right decision with purchasing the iPad.

I then headed back to the the hotel where I was meeting my friends Karen and Amy, one of which is Deaf and the other is hearing impaired. I only had a brief time with my iPad before putting it to the test as a communication device. But, that was long enough!

Proloque2Go grid view on my iPad I discovered the Proloquo2Go app also has keyboard, as well as the predefined categories and phrases, which will take some learning and memories where specific words are. The neat thing is phrases can be added and customized, which may prove useful over time – once I get to add them.

But, the keyboard proved the most useful. When I’m communicating with people, they typically get stuck on a word or two. With the onscreen keyboard, I can type out the words – like I did with the low-tech alphabet card but remembering what I had pointed to was tricky for some people. With the iPad, they can read what I had typed – or I can have it “speak” the words, Although that was pointless for Karen and Amy who couldn’t clearly hear the text-to-speech voice.

Glenda using her iPad
(Photo credit: Karen Putz)

Later that evening I attended the Social Media Club event. Again, the iPad proved useful for communicating. And, even later at the bar, hanging out with Ben Curnett, George Krueger and Mary-Lynn Foster and others.

Mary-Lynn and I were having quite a conversation. Because of the iPad’s back light and clear display, we had no trouble using or reading the iPad in the dimly lit bar. The font size in the Proloque2Go app was also large enough to read from a comfortable distance.

The really cool thing was, because the Holiday Inn and bar had WiFi, I had internet access. When Mary-Lynn asked what I had been up to and I responded problogging and ghost writing, I was able to go to the dotgov blog to show her what I had written. I also showed her the video of me ziplining. The iPad allowed for another level of communication I would not have had with another communicator.

Another night a group of us were at Morton’s Bar and Grill, making plans to go to karaoke, which turned out to be inaccessible but that’s another story. My friend Hope was having trouble figuring out what I was saying and she asked, “Where’s your iPad?” In that moment, I felt a sense of normalcy and acceptance. Using an iPad, which could become as commonplace as the Blackberry and iPhone, is not yet another thing that makes me different. I wasn’t using a strange, unfamiliar device to communicate with this group. People were drawn to it because it was a “recognized” or “known” piece of technology rather than being standoff-ish with an unknown communication device.

I liked how as soon as I turned it on and slid the lock, the thing was ready to go. There’s no need to wait for it to boot or for programs to start; the apps start immediately. Although there were a few times when the iPad appeared unresponsive, even when others tried it. I found restarting fixed that; perhaps there’s another trick when that happens that I have yet to discover.

Initially I held that iPad in the landscaped position on my lap, giving me the largest size of keyboard. This way I was able to steady my hand against my abdomen and type with more than only my left thumb, which was a novel concept. And, at times, the screen would spin around and I would need to type upside down until I figured out to spin the screen back. A way to turn down the spinning sensitivity would be great.

Typing accuracy wasn’t perfect; I was discouraged and having second-thoughts about my purchase. But, a few days ago I realized my typing wasn’t perfect on my old Smith Corona typewriter with keyboard or on my various computer keyboards, erasing my doubts about my purchase decision.

Glenda typing on the iPad with her left thumbWhile killing six hours at the O’Hare airport, I discovered that holding the iPad in the portrait position yet sideways on my lap with the small-sized keyboard parallel with my thigh, I could guide my hand along my thigh and type with my left thumb. My typing speed and accuracy was surprising; I’m curious to test if my typing speed is any faster on the iPad – that’s another post. Although I do envision myself sitting out on the deck, on the couch or comfy in bed, writing.

Then, I did something I had never done before: I went into one of the many Starbucks at O’Hare and ordered my first mocha frappuccino by myself. No misunderstanding or hand gesturing involved. It was so cool, like another door had just opened for me!

I feel like technology is finally catching up with what I truly need.


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If you enjoyed this post, consider buying me a cafe mocha. Thanks kindly.

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78 Comments »

Comment by Barbara

May 15, 2010 @ 2:40 pm

Just retweeted this, Glenda. Such a wonderful and useful post to the parents of children considering the iPad! Thank you so much!

Comment by Susan

May 15, 2010 @ 2:57 pm

What a great review. Sending post URL to a friend who has speech issues, never thought of it’s value as a communication device. I’d already been told that the glide/speak function made it accessible out-of-the-box for those with sight issues.

Comment by Troy Wittren

May 15, 2010 @ 3:03 pm

Making me wanna get one…

Comment by Delores

May 15, 2010 @ 3:10 pm

Wow! I sounds like a great device to use. Not just for word processing but for communication. Maybe it should be on the list for accessibility equipment for children with disabilities.

It also sounds like you had a great time with it. Isn’t it neat to have equipment that is not so different that people feel intimidated by it.

Comment by Lori-ann

May 15, 2010 @ 3:21 pm

Oh my God! Glenda, what you have described is exactly what I have envisioned for Kurtis with his Panasonic Toughbook with touch screen. Now to get the school on board with that vision…I am SO happy for you!

Comment by Kati

May 15, 2010 @ 3:39 pm

Excellent blog, I also got the 32GB Wi-fi and sloped case I don’t get mine till end of may though.

Is there anything in settings to change screen sensitivity? I was worried about accidently hitting other keys too as my movements are also becoming more unpredictable, which I’m still learning to cope with.

Does the case include a screen protector?

Comment by Joseph Karr O'Connor

May 15, 2010 @ 5:35 pm

Glenda! I am so glad for you! This is a wonderful breakthrough. A comparable dedicated device would be thousands more. Mazel tov!

Comment by Adelaide Dupont

May 15, 2010 @ 6:02 pm

How excellent is it that you ordered a frappachino with the IPad?

And it’s also good to demonstrate things. Wireless is probably underrated in my experience.

A protection plan is probably sensible for a device which goes out and about every day.

Comment by Suzie Cheel

May 15, 2010 @ 8:33 pm

Awesome Glenda,

That is fantastic- so the next time we are together you will be doing the ordering- Cool

Your review has made me think I want one.

Protection plan or Apple care is well worth it- My macbook I bought in Vegas back in 2007 has had 2 replacement parts and I am having a hardware issue currently and it will be fixed under applecare and anytime I ring they are so helpful

Comment by Denny

May 16, 2010 @ 12:12 am

i had been wondering about the ipad. im inspired by your post. they ought to have you do their ads.

Comment by Joanna Paterson

May 16, 2010 @ 12:37 am

Fantastic stuff Glenda! Though I can’t help thinking Apple should be paying you to test and help develop this kind of stuff…

Comment by Ricky Buchanan

May 16, 2010 @ 2:21 am

That’s brilliant, Glenda!

I’m adding your review to the iPad Assistive Technology/Disability Round-Up article, with a quote too. Thank you :)

And yay for independence!

Comment by anna

May 16, 2010 @ 3:15 am

That’s great, Glenda! Keep us up to date on how it is working for you. It seems like such an affordable alternative to something like a dynavox … and more accessable (for everyone!)

Comment by Karen Putz

May 16, 2010 @ 9:40 am

Love that iPad!!! It worked well for us!

Comment by Paul Merrill

May 16, 2010 @ 10:46 am

You hit on a key point – the fact that it’s a cool device makes it work so much better than if it were a clunky chunky purpose-built thing.

Comment by Janne

May 17, 2010 @ 2:06 am

Great review! Good to actually read something that has been tested in the real world, and not in made up scenarios.

I’m not a big fan of Apple, but when you put it this way… I’ll have to take a second glance at the iPad.

Comment by Samuel Sennott

May 17, 2010 @ 9:39 am

As the co-creator of Proloquo2Go, this post totally made my day. Thank you for sharing. You rock.

Best Regards,

Samuel Sennott
PhD Student, The Pennsylvania State University
Co-creator of Proloquo2Go

Comment by Ruth Ellison

May 18, 2010 @ 2:59 pm

What a great review Glenda. Nice to see the iPad tested in real life situations.

Comment by Holly Gray (Caleigh's Corner)

May 19, 2010 @ 1:54 pm

Glenda,

This is excellent! My daughter has had her’s for a few weeks now and we couldn’t be happier with her communication which was non-existent before the iPad.

I can’t wait for the day that she too can order a coffee all by herself.

I just added another video of Caleigh using her pad on my blog…if you have the time.

Many thanks for putting her excitement into words.

Comment by Mary-Lynn

May 20, 2010 @ 3:32 pm

Glenda, loved reading your review, and recounting our wonderful conversations at SOBCon.

I really felt like I got to know you better this year because I could listen to you more. That was such a fun evening. Can’t wait to go out with you again!

Comment by Richard

May 21, 2010 @ 9:13 am

Great review, I’ve tweeted it. Still in two minds as to whether I want an iPad (well obviously I want an iPad but the question is whether it would actually be useful to my business).

Comment by Max

May 21, 2010 @ 1:01 pm

I guess there is a key or option to set the screen in an orientation so that it does not rotate when moving iPad.

Comment by Glenda

May 21, 2010 @ 1:15 pm

Max, I’m still searching for that option. The easily rotating screen is one annoyance with the iPad.

Comment by Alexander Schmidt

May 21, 2010 @ 3:11 pm

Hey Glenda,
I can’t afford an Ipad but the Apple website says that there should be a “screen rotation lock” hardware-button on the top right side (picture)!
Hope this helps,
Alex

Comment by Glenda

May 21, 2010 @ 3:54 pm

Thank you, Alex! I didn’t realize that was what the lock was for. Doh! Yes, that will definitely help. Thanks!

Comment by Kareb

May 21, 2010 @ 4:26 pm

Brenda – HURRAH for technology! I can’t wait to tweet this. And the Starbucks story warmed my heart – I love being able to do the “little things” that make life rich, like get my own treat. Thanks for the comprehensive review. Karen

Comment by RJ Cooper

May 24, 2010 @ 11:43 am

HI!

Great initial review. I have made some things that may make it even *more* usable for you? I’d be happy to send you some things for your review:
iPad Mounts
iPad Carry Case
iPad Speaker
iPad Bumper Case
iPad Stand
Everything is at rjcooper.com.

Let me know if you’d like to borrow anything for review!

Once again, thanks for your valuable info and insight!

RJ :)

Comment by Glenda

May 25, 2010 @ 1:14 pm

Hey RJ,

I knew you’d have some iPad accessories in production already! My biggest fear, at this moment, is someone walking by and swiping it – once they are released in Canada and people here know what it is. I like your carrying case with the strap, which might eliminate my other fear of dropping it.

I do have the silicone Apple case, which is great for non-slippage. But I don’t think I could get the iPad out, without damaging the case, to put into another case. A strap that somehow attaches to this case and that is removable would be great.

Comment by Denise

July 12, 2010 @ 8:46 am

I have been keeping up with you online for the last couple of years and I wanted to take this chance to tell you how much I admire you. Keep up the good work!

Visit me where I blog at http://mercardi.blogspot.com.

Comment by Jason Teitelman

July 13, 2010 @ 6:07 am

Great review Glenda. I think the last paragraph is the most impressive. Glad technology is catching up with your needs and how wonderful that a device like this can afford you new experiences and open new doors. Simply wonderful.

Comment by Carmen

July 22, 2010 @ 7:02 pm

Glenda:

Cheers! I am glad you are enjoying your new iPad. I highly recommend you get MobileMe coverage for it from Apple. It allows for your device to be located and deactivated for security purposes if stolen. Sadly, my iPad was stolen in June. Sigh. When I do replace it in the future, I will be taking that precaution.

Comment by Glenda

July 22, 2010 @ 7:10 pm

Great advice, Carmen! Thank you.

Comment by Camilla

September 1, 2010 @ 6:46 pm

Hi,Glenda. Someone gave me a link to your blog and I’m so glad to have discovered it! I’ve been thinking about an ipad for my daughter, who also has athetoid cp. You made some really great points about the ipad, although I think having some kind of theft-proof device for it would be essential. I’m sure RJ Cooper can come up with that!

Comment by Lori-ann

September 1, 2010 @ 8:57 pm

Camilla,

My son has a laptop computer that has a mount for his wheelchair. We bought an anti-theft cable for it from (I think) London Drugs. Gives us peace of mind if nothing else.

Comment by Donna Papacosta

September 13, 2010 @ 3:36 pm

Excellent post, Glenda. Thanks for sharing.

Comment by Kimberly

October 24, 2010 @ 1:42 pm

This post brought tears of joy to my eyes, Glenda. Thank you for it. Technology can be an amazing thing, bringing people together — if we use it carefully. It can also be a force for separation and negativity. So beautiful to see its usefulness to you and other people with different abilities.

Wanted to let you know I found you via Chris Brogan’s recent webinar — he used the title of an old blog post of his from Sept 3, 2008 and you were featured. It was from when he met you at Blogworld. I wanted to read more about you so found his whole blog post and then your blog from there. I’ll be reading your blog, I love your writing style!

Best,
Kimberly Graham (formerly Haddox)

Comment by LD

November 2, 2010 @ 2:32 pm

Keyboard Orientation:

You can either switch the portrait lock on the side of the iPad (this may have been replaced by a mute switch), otherwise hit the home button twice, swipe left until you see the iPod controls (play, pause etc.) and press the portrait/landcape lock button.

Good Luck, i thoroughly enjoyed reading this post and wish you the best in the future!! :)

Comment by Alex Jurgensen

November 5, 2010 @ 12:21 pm

Hi,

You can lock the screen in portrait by using the orientation lock switch, which I don’t remember exactly where it is, as I don’t have an iPad myself, but it is a physical switch on the unit.

Warning: Apple was talking about turning it into a mute switch, I believe, but if they do or have done that already, when 4.2 comes out later this month you can just double tap on the home button and swipe I think left to access the orientation lock. I don’t remember if it is one or two swipes though. This is assuming that 4.2 will be the same as 4.1 for iPod Touch.

Comment by LD

November 6, 2010 @ 3:02 pm

Sorry about my post above, yes as @ALEX JURGENSEN said, it’s when Apple release 4.2 later this month, sorry for the false information :’)

Comment by Teknisyan

November 9, 2010 @ 6:51 am

saw your blog from http://www.nytimes.com/2010/10/31/nyregion/31owen.html, and this is a wonderful post from another vantage point. :)

Very inspiring too!! :)

Comment by Karen Baldwin

October 17, 2012 @ 8:06 pm

I so enjoyed reading your blog. I have been trying to get one for our non-vebal learning disordered, and autism spectrum disorder, 13 year old daughter. She does not like to talk to almost anyone. Except for her dad and I. And sometmes that is hard for her to do. She talks some at school, but not much. And at church she has hardly said a peep to people. And at family get togheters, nothing there either. This would so help her so much in her social activity.

This sounds like it would be awesome for her to have. Than she could communicate, with everyone she knows. I’m hoping it would also help her with her reading and writing too.

Good luck, and thank you for the nicely writen artcle. And good luck in all that you do.

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