What is assistive technology?

Assistive technology is any kind of technology and/or tool that can be used to enhance the functional independence of a person with a disability. Often, for people with disabilities, accomplishing daily tasks such as communicating with others, going to school or work, or participating in activities can be a challenge. Assistive Technology (AT) devices are tools to help overcome those challenges and enable people living with disabilities to enhance and have access to a quality of life, that may otherwise not be known, and lead more independent lives.


iDevices, Disabilities and Good Things to Know

Apple is really understanding how much of a role they are playing in our world. It is exciting!! What a great time we live in.

Apple Lineup To Become More Disability Friendly
"The iPhone and iPad will soon be even simpler to use for people with a wide range of disabilities thanks to a new software update, Apple Inc. officials said this week. Changes designed to make the popular mobile devices more accessible are expected in a forthcoming update to Apple’s iOS software, the operating system that powers the iPhone, iPad and iPod touch……."

Full article: Apple Lineup To Become More Disability Friendly.

And yes, it just keeps getting friendlier.  The iOS6 accessibility options, have definitely made this system even better for our students however. It does just keep getting better!

Before you go any further though, you may want to take some time to read this great article by RJ Cooper's article about how we often introduce the iPad without thinking it all the way through... leading to failure. He has some wonderful words of advice that anyone who works with and/or lives with a special needs child should read BEFORE introducing it.  

Special Education has its own app category in the iTunes store. If you go to the App Store, go to Education, you will see a category for Special Education Apps. It is always good to do a little research on an app before purchasing it. Do a search and see if you can find some reviews or talk to others to see if they have tried it. This could save you a lot of money as some apps are just not appropriate or not what you might be hoping for.

Following you will find a variety of information about things to consider, such as security, tips and tricks, school licensing, etc. I hope you find this guide helpful as you take this journey into "The iDevice World and Special Needs".   

If you need an organizational tool-
something to keep you on task or to your appointments on time, have a place to jot down reminders, the iDevice is an all in one tool to assist you in being organized. There are many such tools to help in every day life. Some of my favorites:
  • The built in Calendar allows you to set reminders with a sound affect. In fact, you can set 2 reminders for different time intervals.You might also want to look into CalenGoo.  For $6.99 it will sync with Google Calendar,  is color-coded, allows more than one calendar to be used, has picture icons so the user can see what they are doing by using visuals and includes a to do list.  
  • Evernote is a great little tool for a variety of purposes. It's like an electronic notebook; you can store pdfs, pictures, word docs, spreadsheets etc. in a note page that can also include your notes for that day's lecture. There's an app for iPhone/Touches and it works on your computer. It can be interacted with in the web browser. Type a text note. Clip a web page. Snap a photo. Grab a screenshot. Evernote will keep it all safe. A wonderful example of how a tool like this can change a life- Patrick Jones has sustained numerous concussions throughout his life, and as a result suffers from Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI), which causes severe short-term memory loss. In his day-to-day life, Patrick uses Evernote to help him piece together the basic memory flows we take for granted.
  • Forgetful stores text, audio or video reminders/to-do list and keeps you notified as important reminders become due. Record things needed to do or aims/goals wanted to achieve instantly and be reminded at any time in the future. View your reminders/to-do items in separate Current and Pending lists.
  • Built in Notes app will let you make as many little notes to yourself as needed. If you would prefer, use the Voice memos which would allow you to speak instead of type.
  • A visual calendar called Organizer... This calendar allows you to put pictures in it so if you know someone who needs a calendar but is not a strong reader- this just might be the ticket. Check it out. You can enter text, create diagrams, use emoji, insert pictures and save contacts just as you would write them down in your organizer. You can also record and play voice memos on the iPhone and iPod touch (older models will require an additional microphone). It is the perfect tool to manage your daily schedule, to-do list, notes or diary.  An agenda app  you might want to explore is InClass which was rated Best App for young adults 2011.  It is an organizer, allows users to take photo, audio or text notes, keeps tasks for the day in one place with course alarms.
  • iProcrastinate is designed to be a simple, easy to use task management program for students.  It allows the user to create a project with multiple steps that helps break a large project into smaller more manageable pieces.
  • TextMinder  is an app that will text you reminder messages. You create a one-time or recurring text message, and set the date and time it will be delivered- so it texts you at the exact time it is needed. Consider setting up a recurring text message regarding medication, bus routes, when to leave for work, all kind of things.
Helpful Life apps worth considering:
  • With Brain Trainer, you get 10 brain games that are designed to enhance your cognitive abilities such as memory, processing speed, attention, flexibility and problem solving. By playing the games a few minutes a day, you will achieve the best results.

  • Dragon Dictation is an easy-to-use voice recognition app that allows users to easily speak and instantly see their words on the screen. Dragon Dictation for the iPhone or iPad lets you send short text messages, longer email messages, and even update your Facebook and Twitter statuses without typing a word. A great app for people with limited mobility in their hands.
  • iBooks is Apple’s iPad ebook reader. It allows users to search thousands of popular book and magazine titles and download them instantly. iBooks works with VoiceOver, which will read the contents of the pages out loud. The screen of the iPad is so sensitive to touch that just the slightest movement of a finger will allow many book enthusiasts with disabilities to turn the pages of their own book for the first time. (Both apps are built in to the iDevices.)
  • Locate me Now helps you to find your current location and address with a push of a button. This app finds the total address of your current location like street number, street name, city, state, and zipcode.
  • The built in Maps will help that spatially, directionally challenged individual. Or, just those who need a little help getting from here to there occasionally. 
  • Pill Time app will keep track of your medicines and remind you when you need to take them. After you set up your schedule, Pill Time will alert you on time even if the app is not running. You can enter as many medicines as you want and define multiple usage time and dosage per day per medicine.
  • Emergency Info app is for anyone who cares for disabled people, children, or elders. It’s also useful for individuals and families. My Emergency Info helps you gather important information that is necessary in an emergency situation. The name of your doctor, medications you are taking, medical conditions, allergies, and insurance information can be accessed with the tap of a finger. You can also use the app to find hospitals nearby in case of an emergency. (This is good for all of us to have on hand.)
  • Needing a translator? Google Translate is a free app that will translate between 57 languages and provide you with audio results. iSpeak is a simple text translator with quality text to speech provided to speak the translated phrase back to you in the target language. The text to speech engine is very clear.
  •  WordWeb offers a quick, easy-to-use and comprehensive international English dictionary and thesaurus. Fast searching, detailed definitions, synonyms, derived words, examples and a great user interface let you easily navigate between words
BrainLine has put together a list of 27 Life-Changing iPhone and iPad Apps for People with Brain Injury. The BrainLine team sifted through many resources to collect this list of iDevice apps that could be useful to people with a brain injury — and their families and caregivers. (They cover other smartphone platforms in another listing.) This is a great listing worth taking a look at! Download a chart of all 24 Apps.

Tips and Tricks
for using and managing your any of your iTools? Here are a few:
  • Tap home button 2 times to go back to first screen
  • Tap again to go to search feature
  • Hold any icon, when it starts to wiggle you can move or click x to delete
  • Parental Restrictions are available - go to: Settings > General > Restrictions
  • For more, check out my page of "iDevice: Basic How to Tricks" and Tony Vincent's Learning in Hand Tips
Oh, there is just so much you can do with these wonderful tools! You can record lectures, learn a new language, practice your multiplication facts, make grocery lists, find a recipe while shopping, help with money exchange, expand your vocabulary... and for so little. Warning: This can become very addictive to all.
  • Santa Ana Unified School District has posted a really nice online "how to" guide with great visuals for all the technical stuff you need to know, such as: Syncing your iPad, Restore, Checking for up-Dates, Settings. This site is worth bookmarking! 
  • If you buy one of these great tools, you are making an investment so you may want to consider purchasing a Square Trade Warranty. You can get up to 3 years and it includes drops and spills!!! I bought one for my new Classic iPod for $32 and my iPhone 4 for $94. You can't beat that!
  • Then we should discuss security as we know these are hot little items and if one is "lifted" a little security just might get it back to the rightful owner The document: iPad in Business Security Overview provides helpful advice on how to adjust a few settings to add some extra security. Also, you may want to consider downloading the free app, "Find my iPad". This app will allow you to send out an alarm, lock your system and or wipe it clean all through Internet access.
  • You can restrict access to WIFI on the iPad (Settings;General;Restrictions and then Enable Restrictions - You then set a passcode.) Once you do this you have the option of not allowing access to Safari, YouTube, iTunes, and Installing Apps. If you choose to restrict these apps, they will not show on the device. You can also set content ratings for Music, Movies, TV Shows, Apps, etc. You may also restrict apps by going to settings to restrictions and turn this restriction on and setting a passcode.
  • Guided Access is the best gig in special ed today. This is available in the iOS6 up-date.  We have been challenged with trying to keep kids in the app we want them to be in. Now we can! How to video is worth watching.
  • Are you worried about your apps being deleted. iOS Tips and Tricks can help with  some helpful ideas to keep this from happening.
  • Are you an educator wondering how the whole VPP licensing thing works with iTunes, iPods, iPads and iPhones? David Niemeijer has made a wonderful attempt to walk you through the maze. Also, tap into your Apple rep. They will walk you through everything you need to know. Butte County Office of Education has developed some great resources: forms and procedures for schools to follow. These are being tapped into across the country.
  • A site with good information is the ConnSenseBulletin site, which also provides a listing of apps to use in education developed by an Assistive Technologist.
  • A great Wiki to explore for how to integrate the iPod world into the education world, teachers may want to stay touch to the iPod User Group. They are posting as many help and how-to articles as they can and as quickly as they can so you can continue to be successful using iPod devices in your classroom.  
The iPad and Specific Disablities
To iPad or ChromeBook?? It really depends on the student's needs. They are different tools. Refer to the iPad Features Chart and Chromebook Features for guidance.  Look at the pros and cons from the accessibility standpoint, and perhaps a framework for decision-making in general.
Don't forget about the often forgotten iPodTouch 5 which is awesome and should be considered. Love your iPhone? The iPodTouch can give you the same fetures without the phone capabilities. Look at the comparisons between all of the iDevices. 
The apps will continue to grow, improve and be awesome. You just can't go wrong!