iPad Assistive Technology/Disability Round-Up
There have been a lot of articles on a lot of websites about accessibility and the iPad since the specifications were first released. Now that our USA readers and bloggers have begun to get their hands on the devices there are even more articles being written, and I'm sure more will follow as the 3G enabled devices are released in the USA and both models become available in other countries starting on May 28th. As an assistive technology enthusiast and disabled blogger, it's fantastic to see so much interest in the non-mainstream uses of these devices!
The iPad And Vision Impaired Users
The "Booked" blog from mainstream Forbes.com has written Apple's iPad Brings Easy Reading to the Blind which may help explain to able-bodied people who so many blind users are excited about the iPad.
Mac-cessibility has written about the iPad's use for those who will use its VoiceOver screen reader in a series of articles entitled "A First Look At The iPad":
- A First Look At The iPad: Overview
- A First Look At The iPad: Mail
- A First Look At The iPad: Safari
- A First Look At The iPad: iBooks
AccessWorld, a publication of the American Foundation for the Blind (AFB), has published a great article by Bradley Hodges about his first 24 Hours with the iPad.
The Mac-cessibility round table podcast special episode #5 discusses the iPad.
The RNIB in the UK published first impressions of the iPad's accessibility (curiously, only available as a Word document) by a partially sighted user and a blind user.
The iPad and Deaf Users
The deafmac.org blog (which, by the way, has a new layout and a new editor) has published several posts about the iPad too:
- Thoughts on the iPad announcement, about why the iPad is both mind-blowing and disappointing for Deaf users.
- The iPad, Reviewed, by new editor Ryan Layton
The iPad And Mobility Impaired Users
Jane Vincent from Access On Main St (I think this is a cool blog name!) has written about the iPad as environmental control unit, and about possible problems with multi-fingure or multi-hand gestures in iPad Gives Users More Than One Finger.
The iPad And Communication Impaired Users
Kati, a frequent commenter here, has just pre-ordered her iPad. She plans to use The iPad As An Affordable AAC Solution for herself, as an adult with Ataxia.
Glenda from Do It Myself Blog has just bought herself an iPad while on a trip to America for a blogging conference. She reported:
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.
How fantastic! You can read her excellent review here: The iPad as an Affordable Communicator: Initial Review.
Other iPad Information
Jakob Nielsen's Alertbox released their First Findings From iPad Usability User Testing. Their findings are preliminary but disappointing:
iPad apps are inconsistent and have low feature discoverability, with frequent user errors due to accidental gestures. An overly strong print metaphor and weird interaction styles cause further usability problems.
Hopefully iPad app developers will take these findings into account when developing future apps.
Glenn Fleischman at TIDBits reported that the iPad Camera Connection Kit's USB adapter works with USB headphones and headsets. At almost the same time, TUAW noted that at least some USB keyboards work on the iPad via the USB adapter too, although keyboards only work after displaying an error message. Since neither of these functions are officially supported by Apple they may stop working with any iPad upgrade, but for the moment they seem to be fine.
If you're willing to jailbreak your iPad (and thus void your warranty), you can also enable iPad voice commands and use a Magic Mouse with your iPad which have major accessibility implications. Unfortunately, Jailbreaking has been known to break devices in un-fixable ways though, so any of these things are definitely "at your own risk".
iPad Assistive Technology Accessories
It's also worth noting that as well as the huge range of general-audience cases, speakers, mounts, and stands for the iPad there are some specifically chosen for their accessibility potential. RJ Cooper has made available a great set of accessibility-friendly accessibilities for iPad users:
- iPad Stand suitable for desks, wheelchair trays, etc.
- Several iPad Wheelchair Mounting Solutions
- Super protective iPad Bumper Case
- Wireless iPad Speaker suitable for AAC users
Apple themselves have a keyboard dock available for the iPad and its keyboard has some keys that interact with the iPad specifically, as described in iLounge's iPad Keyboard Dock Review, but there is no full keyboard control or anything near it but The Apple Blog has a complete list of known iPad hardware keyboard commands which work with the bluetooth keyboard and are better than nothing.
Suzanne from Abled Body pointed out the lack of accessibility about the iPad's keynote announcement and other accessibility deficiencies about the launch which really are inexcusable. If Apple's going to be promoting accessibility of its devices then accessibility of its web pages really is important too.
Have you read, or written, other articles about the iPad and how it could be used for a person with a disability? Contact me or leave a comment and I'll add your article to the list!
- Ricky Buchanan