Do It Myself Blog – Glenda Watson Hyatt

Your Accessibility Conscience

The iPad: Cheap and Disruptive AAC?

Filed under: Living with a disability — by Glenda at 12:09 am on Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Since the iPad’s release in April, countless stories have emerged of people with disabilities finding creative uses for the mainstream gadget; the greatest life-changing use being communication. The iPad with Proloquo2Go or a similar communication app suddenly creates an affordable assistive and augmentative communication (AAC) device, which can only disrupt the traditional AAC industry.

I shared my initial thoughts on the iPad as an affordable communicator in an earlier post. Since then, my initial review has only been reconfirmed, repeatedly. How I wish the iPad existed years earlier.

A few years ago Darrell and I explored communication devices that might be suitable for me. He invited a contact to our home to demonstrate various communication devices he represented. One device – a Dynavox of some sort – looked interesting, something I might use, occasionally. The price tag was a hefty $8000, which, because I’m not employed I’m not eligible for Vocational Rehabilitation Services or other funding, I’d be on the hook for the full price. Nix to that!

Glenda Watson Hyatt presenting at SOBCon 09: Biz School for Bloggers (Photo credit: Becky McCray)

Darrell and I went down to London Drugs and, after much discussion, picked up a Toshiba Libretto – a fully functional computer in a small package for little more than a quarter of the Dynavox price. I have used it to give several presentations, take notes at conferences, and participate in group discussions

However, despite its small size, using it for spontaneous communication was clumsy: I had to unzip the laptop case, undo the Velcro straps, pull out the laptop, find a horizontal surface to place it on, boot it and run the desired software before I could type out what I wanted to say. By then the conversation had progressed and my contribution was old, disjointed. The laptop – although useful for some purposes – wasn’t really convenient for communication in the way I needed it to be.

Whereas, the iPad is easily whipped out of my handbag and quickly gets to the point where I can begin communicating. With the Proloquo2Go app, I have the flexibility to use the pre-loaded vocabulary and phrases or the onscreen keyboard with a font size large enough to read from a comfortable distance, even in a dimly lit location; like, a bar!

The iPad app Pproloquo2Go

And, with a wifi connection, I can show something on my blog or elsewhere on the internet, taking the conversation even deeper – something that would not be possible with a single-function AAC device.

The iPad has given me a communication device that suits my current needs, for a price I could afford. Without the iPad, I – and so many others – would have continued going without a device for basic communication.

However, the iPad isn’t appropriate for every person in need of a communication device. Some individuals need the ruggedness and the simplicity of a single-function AAC device.

This is the topic Joseph O’Connor, father of a non-verbal teenaged daughter, and I will be exploring during our session “The New AAC: Cheap and Disruptive?“ at the 26th Annual International Technology & Persons with Disabilities Conference (CSUN), March 15-19, 2011, in San Diego.

Through our two case studies and from further research, we will  examine issues facing users, teachers and other professionals, school districts and other institutions, software vendors, and equipment manufacturers as we move into this new exciting phase of AAC development.

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6 Comments »

Comment by Barbara

December 7, 2010 @ 5:07 am

You say a lot with a few words, Glenda! This brief history of your experience and comparisons of equipment is the perfect illustration of what is possible. I’m so glad you will be presenting this – to a large crowd, I hope. When is it you are coming to SXSW?

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