Tech Accessories

Aug 06, 2014
Tagged with: Tech Accessories

A decade ago—before there were iPhones and tablets-people with disabilities (PWD) were probably the most interested in the stuff Steve Jobs was dreaming up. Jobs wanted to make communication devices more intuitive and less complex for people to use. As the technology has progressed, smartphones and tablets have incorporated several innovations for people with disabilities including:

Touch Screen Technology

People with limited fine motor skills are no doubt delighted by a phone that shows a menu from which they can choose what they want to do—make a call, send an email, surf the web—without having to scroll through different steps or use a stylus. Disabled World explains that the iPad Mini touch screen may help people who have spinal cord injuries, muscular dystrophy or have had strokes because the touch commands are simple, allowing them to use the technology easily. Furthermore, many people can use a touch screen tablet to read because the device is so much lighter than a hardback book.

Another benefit of the touch screen is that webpages and images can easily be enlarged by just using their fingers, which also is beneficial for people with fine motor skill issues and visual impairments.

In 2007, text messaging took off, according to Mashable. Along with video chat apps such as Facetime and Hangouts, these tools have greatly helped people who are deaf to communicate with each other by being able to type or sign rather than speak, and also communicate with people who do not sign by being able to send them text messages.

Voice-Activated Technology

Voice-activated technology has been a huge benefit for people with motor skill and visual impairments. Dragon Speech Recognition Software took off just as the Americans with Disabilities Act was signed in 1990, and is now the best-selling voice recognition software in the world. By turning talk into text, it opens up word processing for thousands.

As the iPhone and Android technology advanced, it only made sense to include a voice activation feature. Apple introduced a beta version of Siri, its voice-activated assistant, to the iPhone 4s in 2011, and Android released Cortana three years later. The first Siri was a bit clumsy and frankly, not very bright. But even then, people with visual impairments could still reliably use Siri to make a call, send a text, open a webpage and ask questions like “how hot will it be in Phoenix tomorrow?”

The latest Siri is much more capable. It can quickly find and adjust settings for a myriad of apps and features PWDs find useful such as the brightness, Bluetooth on/off and font sizes.


Apple Enlarged the iPhone to Create the iPad

Tablets have actually been around since the 1980s, but failed to capture the market. Finally, Apple recognized that the way to go was to increase the size of an iPhone to a tablet, and in 2010, Apple released the iPad, which quickly became the benchmark for other tablets.

Today’s tablets combine the best technology Apple pioneered including voice recognition/voice over, swipe browsing, easy image enlargement, long battery life and lightweight housing.

Apple also has taken special interest in developing apps for people with disabilities. The Utah Assistive Technology Program lists several communication apps, which all have a reasonable cost. For example, these apps amplify sound for people who have hearing loss and offer tools for people with visual impairments including light and color detectors, a talking timer and Braille typing.

So, what is your favorite accessory?


NCHPAD articles:


Author: Gizelle Lachey

  • bobl07

    Can you image what technology will be like in 5 years? Maybe even 5 months!

  • Chloe Cushney

    Have a look at The Z3 Tablet Stand by RATstands, perfect accesory for any tablet device.

  • bobl07

    Thank you for your comments and the link.