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How Tablets and Smartphones benefit Individuals with Special Needs

  
  
  
  

Communication is the essence of being human. -Tammy Taylor (Autism Therapist)

All too often we take everyday things for granted; ordering lunch from a menu, reading a book, typing an email. Yet there are many people that can't enjoy completing these everyday tasks. For example, part of what is so difficult in the life of someone with autism is that even though they can think and feel and experience most of the same things the rest of us do, they cannot communicate it orally. They cannot physically say that they are too hot, cold or hungry. They lack the ability to communicate the most basic of things you or I might remark about countless times a day.

Recently I watched a segment on 60 minutes where Leslie Stahl spent time with a few persons with autism as well as a therapist and some teachers. The results of what an iPad could do for a person with autism could bring a tear to your eye, especially when you don't realize how difficult it is for them to verbalize things that we take for granted. 

One of the apps suggested on the 60 minutes segment was called Prologuo2Go. The autistic male in the segment was able to express things verbally that he could never do before. It was awesome to see his face light up when he was able to order breakfast from the waitress. 

Proloquo2Go™

Proloquo2Go™ is an award-winning Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) solution for iPad, iPhone and iPod touch for people who have difficulty speaking or cannot speak at all.

Proloquo2Go can be adapted to suit the needs of a wide range of users with varying literacy levels. Featuring natural-sounding voices, speech can be generated by tapping buttons with symbols or typing using the on-screen keyboard with word prediction. Proloquo2Go continues to revolutionize the world of mobile AAC, allowing individuals to communicate at home, in school, at work, in the community, anywhere, anytime.

 

Proloquo2go

Verizon Mobile Accessibility for Android

Verizon Wireless has a suite of services for Verizon Wireless Android Smartphone’s running Android 2.2 or higher to help customers who are blind or have low vision perform ordinary wireless tasks in a simple, intuitive way.  Verizon Mobile Accessibility is a suite of 10 accessibility apps, from speech recognition to text-to-speech technology, and offers customers who are visually impaired an innovative way to use their Smartphone’s.

The Verizon Mobile Accessibility suite, running on the nation’s largest 4G LTE network and largest, most reliable 3G network, features intuitive touch screen navigation, speech recognition and voice synthesis powered by Nuance’s Vocalizer® text-to-speech technology, as well as Braille output.  Customers get automatic access to all of the features once the app is downloaded and do not have to launch each app individually from within the suite.  

To experience the full functionality of their Android Smartphones, customers can use the touch QWERTY keyboard with voice synthesis or the voice recognition technology to perform a variety of tasks, including:

  • Phone: Make calls, answer calls, hear the caller ID and manage call log
  • Contacts: Manage contacts, even those from social networks
  • SMS: Compose and read text messages
  • Alarms: Set alarms
  • Web: Full Web-browsing experience with the ability to navigate faster to content of choice (links, paragraphs, headings, forms, etc.) and bookmark favorite webpage’s
  • Calendar: Create, edit and delete a calendar entry
  • Email: Compose and send emails
  • Where am I?: GPS app that gives updates on current location
  • Settings: Change ringtone; configure feedback and notifications (vibration or audio); configure keyboard echo, punctuation verbosity, speech pitch and rate, etc.
  • Quick access: Locate date and time, phone status information such as battery level and network coverage, number of missed calls and unread messages, etc.

Customers can download a trial version of the Verizon Mobile Accessibility here.  There is no charge to download the app, but a Verizon Wireless data plan is required and usage may count towards a customer’s data allowance.

Below are Verizon’s instructions on how to install the program:

Installing Verizon Verizon Mobile Accessibility to your device: Please note you may need sighted assistance to download of this application.

  1. Off of the device Home Page, Select Google Play
  2. Type Verizon in the Search Window
  3. Type Verizon Verizon Mobile Accessibility in the Search Window
  4. Application will appear, select Install
  5. Select Accept & Download
  6. Select the device Home Screen icon to begin using 

iPhone Mobile Accessibility

You may be thinking, “What about the iPhone?”  Apple has a bunch of different features that are helpful to those who are visually/hearing impaired.

Aside from some of the obvious features like Siri, the virtual assistant, Apple has some not so obvious tricks up their sleeve.  Most of these features you’ll need to activate under the Settings>General>Accessibility section. 

One of the best features, at least I think so, is under the ringtone section.  If you have a hard time hearing a ringtone, you can set up custom vibrations so your favorite contacts can have their own pattern.  They have a few that you can play around with and you can even create some of your own.  There’s also an option to have your LED camera light to flash with an incoming call. 

Another feature, particularly for those who may be deaf in one ear, is Mono Audio.  This will take any music that is in a stereo format and pipe it through one ear bud.  Now you can have it all in one ear or you can have a stronger sound going into the left or the right.  Either way, it’ll let you get the full effect of the music. 

iPhone Vision Accessibility iPhone Hearing Accessibility

Visually speaking, there are some awesome features like Zoom.  This feature, no matter if you're in a third party or an Apple app, will let you zoom in on the page all the way up to 500%.  There is also a section to amplify your text which ranges from normal font to 56pt font.  Using Voice Over, everything on the screen will be spoken to you, from reading text to trying to find an app, when you click on a part of the screen, it will tell you exactly what it is. 

Technology has some wonderful benefits for everyone.

-CC

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