The iPad as a Disruptive Force in Assistive Technology

July 27, 2011

iPad with a wheelchair symbol on its screenIn the fifteen months since the iPad was released, there has been an amazing array of applications for this device that addressed the needs of people with disabilities (PwDs). Many of the benefits derived from these apps were already available as custom software or hardware accessibility solutions prior to the iPad launch, but they were usually more expensive, putting them out of reach of substantial numbers of PwDs.

In the Mashable article “4 Ways iPads Are Changing the Lives of People With Disabilities,” Zoe Fox nicely summarizes the impact of the iPad on a particular demographic that often relies on technology to achieve functional equivalence.  And in Bloomberg Businessweek’s article “The iPad’s Secret Abilities,” Rachael King lists some good examples of the device’s utility for the PwD market.

It is fair to say that the iPad has become a disruptive force in the assistive technology industry. Where assistive technology solutions had long existed that enhanced the quality of life for PwDs, applications could be downloaded from Apple’s App Store that delivered nearly similar benefits at a far cheaper price. This reduced the need to invest up front for more costly solutions, even if they were more complete than those offered for the iPad.  In addition, unique and innovative apps were developed that took advantage of the iPad’s touch capabilities, its portability and its connectivity to the Internet to empower PwDs in ways never conceived beforehand.

This does not mean that the iPad is the definitive assistive technology device for every person with a disability, or that every iPad assistive technology app delivers a complete solution. As Cristen Reat, founder of SNApps4Kids, said to Mashable’s Fox, “Just because you buy a device doesn’t mean it’s going to change anything.” His partner Sami Rahman agrees, “We are big advocates that the user needs to understand the objectives first before you pick the technology.”

At the time of this article, there is no central information resource that compiles all the available iPad apps for PwDs.  In lieu of this, I have listed several useful links to information on iPad apps for people with disabilities. If there are additional resources I may have missed, please post in the Comments section below, or email me.

LINKS TO RESOURCES FOR iPAD APPLICATIONS FOR PwDs
1. SNApps4Kids: Special needs applications for children
2. 10 websites to find special needs apps for iPad: Useful list of various websites for searching for iPad apps for PwDs.
3. Abledata: Comprehensive assistive technology resource. Type “iPad” on the website search area for a list of iPad apps.
4. ATMac:  Roundup of apps for the iPad
5. Apple Store: Apps for Special Education (opens in iTunes, includes both iPhone and iPad apps)
6. One Place For Special Needs – App Guide
7. iPad Academy: Over 30 apps for Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC)

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    James - Assistive Technologies June 25, 2012 at 6:53 am

    The iPad is a powerful force in assistive technology. Thanks to its’ touch screen technology and ease of use, the iPad is the perfect device. In recent years, technology has become more accessible to all generations.

    The mobile device market is here to stay and provides quality ease of use.

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