iPads, accessibility and disability

Experience and evidence would suggest that when great leaps forward are made – in the form of transport, education or the internet, for example – disabled people often don’t have equal chance to benefit from the progress the leaps represent.

Insofar as generalisations across all impairment groups can be made (for example, for people with learning disabilities, hearing impairments or visual impairments), I’m inclined to think that iPads and apps* are, unfortunately, in much the same category of great leaps forward.

This article, though, suggests at least some room for optimism, even if it is from Mashable.

It suggests there are four main ways in which touch devices such as iPads are “changing the lives of disabled people”:

  1. As a communicator – touch devices are making text-to-speech or touch-to-speech technology more affordable
  2. As a therapeutic device – touch devices are both motivating and enabling disabled young people to develop or use their motor skills
  3. As an educational tool – touch devices can act as very useful supplements to (or replacements for) traditional education tools
  4. As a behaviour monitor – touch devices can quantify behavioural progress, either through recording notes / videos etc. and/or charting graphs. Similarly, apps can remind people to take medication.

There is undeniably a medical model focus in these benefits: they tend to focus on what “deficits” someone’s impairment represents and how these can be addressed. This is rather than highlighting, for example, how technology can be used to overcome the barriers that society puts up for disabled people (a great example of this is the Hills are Evil app, which enables people to identify inclines, raised kerbs and impassable streets).

Nevertheless, it’s good to see tech so widely known and appreciated as an iPad being seen in the context of what good it can provide for disabled people too.

*I’m not sure, though, if social media is in the same category. I’m not aware of any work that has been done on this particular topic – i.e. disabled people, social media and accessibility. If it has, please let me know.


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Man of letters & numbers; also occasionally of action. Husband to NTW. Dad of three. Friendly geek.

4 thoughts on “iPads, accessibility and disability”

  1. Pingback: Twitted by E11ie5
  2. I think the hardware provides the tools for possibilities. The iPad touch surface, position sensing, GPS, front-facing high res camera, etc.. are all laced with possibilities for the right app developer to unlock. It’s just struck me that I wonder if anyone has explored the use of a jailbroken Kinect as a communication device too.

    However, I think you’re right that consideration of disabled users isn’t front and forward in the designers’ minds with devices like these.

  3. The great thing about iPads and tablets are that there’s definitely the potential t move past focusing in people’s difficulties and focus on enabling. Just imagine using them as a tool for independence from things like remembering how to make acupuncture of tea….to enabling someone to travel independently. And as for social media, there’s defy tie,y work being done there. Multime is one new platform for creating accessible stories and social media tools, and there are a few Facebook replacements. iPads/tablets for people with disabilities and older people is my passion so happy to chat about the possibilities 🙂

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