Getting Started With Mobile Devices for Special Needs

Accessories & Safety: A step by step guide to preparing and protecting a mobile device
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  • Lectures 36
  • Length 1.5 hours
  • Skill Level Beginner Level
  • Languages English
  • Includes Lifetime access
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    Available on iOS and Android
    Certificate of Completion
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About This Course

Published 9/2015 English

Course Description

Low cost commercially available mobile devices have allowed people with disabilities to leverage the power of technology to help them improve skills and become more independent. We know that getting started can be overwhelming, so we have created this course to demystify the learning process of what is available to help you or someone you love get the most out of their mobile device.

I will go over the broad topics covered in the course, as well as review the supplemental material and assignments. And, I will take you step by step through a variety of options for preparing and protecting a mobile device by selecting appropriate accessories for a user with special needs. I will address a range of considerations for people of all ages with special needs, such as how to choose a protective case, which stylus might be beneficial, is a separate keyboard necessary and what is a Bubcap? This course will ensure that you have access to information to assist you in setting up a device for success.

What are the requirements?

  • Be in the market for a mobile device
  • Own or have access to a mobile device
  • Be in a caregiving role for someone who owns a mobile device

What am I going to get from this course?

  • Be familiar with accessory options available for a mobile device that can assist a user’s individual needs
  • Identify strategies for determining which accessories can address needs of accessing a device, using a device for communication or as an educational tool

What is the target audience?

  • This course is for anyone interested in using a mobile device to improve skills or reach goals, such as those with disabilities, parents, caregivers, therapists, and teachers
  • Students should have a mobile device or be in the market for one
  • Although BridgingApps is a program of Easter Seals Greater Houston that helps bridge the gap between technology and people with disabilities, this course provides relevant information that will help people of all abilities use a mobile device effectively

What you get with this course?

Not for you? No problem.
30 day money back guarantee.

Forever yours.
Lifetime access.

Learn on the go.
Desktop, iOS and Android.

Get rewarded.
Certificate of completion.

Curriculum

Section 1: The Nitty Gritty and Course Overview
03:23

This introduction is in the process of uploading and being redone.

Welcome to the Course: Getting Started with Mobile Devices for Special Needs!My Name is Tara Rocha, and I will be teaching this course. A little bit about me...

I currently work as a Digital Learning Specialist for BridgingApps - a division of Easter Seals. We are a non-profit organization that helps people bridge the gap between technology and people with disabilities. Up until this year I was a Digital Learning Specialist for Fort Bend ISD, the 7th largest school district, located Sugar Land, Texas (just outside of Houston).

My passion is teaching. I teach to inspire those who I work with and the kids lives that I touch. I strive to learn new things and look for ways that I can bring it to my department and the teachers that I work with. One of my recent accomplishments was becoming a SMART Exemplary Educator. I have a total of 15 years in education, with four years in Educational Technology. I left the classroom when I had three small children back to back and it wasn't until my last couple of years in the classroom that I really became passionate about technology.

The opportunity to work in a field where I get to indulge in my two passions makes me one really happy person.

Low cost commercially available mobile devices have allowed people with disabilities to leverage the power of technology to help them improve skills and become more independent. We know that getting started can be overwhelming, so we have created this course to demystify the learning process of what is available to help you or someone you love get the most out of their mobile device.

I will go over the broad topics covered in the course, as well as review the supplemental material and assignments.

Also, I will take you step by step through a variety of options for preparing and protecting a mobile device by selecting appropriate accessories for a user with special needs. A range of considerations for people of all ages with special needs will be addressed, such as how to choose a protective case, which stylus might be beneficial, is a separate keyboard necessary and what the heck is a Bubcap?

Phrases such as “I'm afraid my child with autism will throw and break the tablet if I let him use it” or “I cannot use my hands very well, so I will not be able to control an iPad” can be common reasons people cite to avoid or not even consider using mobile devices, yet these are people who may benefit the most from their use.

We will cover features and descriptions of products that can make the difference in someone using a device successfully or giving up in frustration. Some examples include a sturdy wheelchair mount, a stylus for a shaky hand or an indestructible waterproof case for an active child. You may be unaware of these products that can be relatively inexpensive solutions and easy to find in your community or online. It is our goal to introduce you to a variety of practical options to help you find a solution for your particular situation.

This course will ensure that you have access to information to assist you in setting up a device for success.



Practice Activity
00:38
Section 2: Getting Started with Mobile Devices
00:53

We will cover features and descriptions of products that can make the difference in someone using a device successfully or giving up in frustration.

This section includes a few important terms that will be defined for the purposes of this course. The PDF includes a modified version of a tool used in the field of Assistive Technology called the SETT Framework developed by Joy Zabala. This short self-assessment is a simple way to answer basic questions about your prospective purchase of a mobile device or what kind of device you currently own or have access to. You have to know where you are in order to plan where you are going and how to get there.


Defining Key Terms & Self Assessment
00:34
02:16

Touch-based, low cost, commercially available tools can augment, or in some limited cases, replace traditional therapies, expensive equipment and curriculums to result in better physical, educational and social outcomes for children and adults who are naturally engaged by mobile devices with their combination of touch, sound, color, movement and fun.

Parents, teachers, and therapists have found that mobile devices paired with certain apps can be effective tools for improving skills and accelerating learning for people with disabilities. Because touch-based mobile devices such as the iPad have a direct interface (no mouse, track pad, joystick or external mechanism required to operate the device) users can access them more easily than a traditional computer. Additionally, using touch-based technology is intuitive, relatively inexpensive and does not make a user with a disability feel different. Other users recognize mobile devices and their use does not scare them or make the user unapproachable as is the case with some traditional assistive technology devices and equipment.

Many tablets and e-readers on the market are more cost effective options than the iPad, but there are fewer apps suited for people with disabilities available for these devices. Overall, we are seeing more development of accessibility features and apps for people with special needs.

2 questions

Use the key terms found in the additional resources to help answer these questions.

Section 3: Mobile Device Types
01:48

In this lecture we will discuss some of the goals and expectations that will help you narrow your search to a specific device. As you are able to answer these questions, consider the following five areas:

Goals and Expectations of a device

  • Needs: Accessible early learning tool, social skills, independence, communication, visual reinforcement, fun, play
  • Environment: school, home, work, community, leisure
  • Look at the person and objectives first, device second
  • Consider the following factors: Verbal or non-verbal, fine motor and dexterity, cognitive ability, sensory requirements
  • Person-task-environment: Match the skills and goals of the person to features of the device

Smaller tablets are quickly becoming a favorite technology device for children due to their size. They fit well in small hands, are easy to carry around, and offer accessibility features that full sized tablets boast. It is important that you take the time to find the right device for you or the user you are working with.

00:14

What Kinds of Devices are Available? Before delving into the exciting world of accessible options for devices, it is important to look at mobile devices that people with and without disabilities are using to enhance skills and become more independent.

04:58

BridgingApps' approach to selecting a device:

  • Buy the least expensive device to achieve specific goals
  • Younger users tend to break things
  • Apple products are not expandable or upgradeable
  • Android devices are less expensive, but currently not as many apps are available for special needs
  • Fewer accessibility features in Android devices
  • If no visual or fine motor issues, consider iPod Touch or iPad Mini
  • If older child or adult, consider iPhone or iPod Touch
  • If planning to use lots of video, need more memory such as 64G
  • For many apps, email, social networking, need less memory such as 16G
02:35

I will give a brief overview of the platforms for mobile devices and tell you how they compare to one another.

Although the iOS devices are among our favorites, we realize that there are several other platforms to choose from. If you are looking for a particular device, we would like to point you a great article that you will find the link to in the additional resources in this section. Whether you are looking for an Apple, Android, Windows, or something on the Fire platform, we look for tablets that work well for the individual's' strengths and needs.

Our favorite tablet is the iPad due to the fact that there are a lot of apps that are available in the Apple Store for education. We also like the screen resolution, device design, and the great accessibility features including “Guided Access”, zoom magnification at your fingertips, and voiceover. In the future, we will be talking more about accessibility features. You can also find some of the accessibility features on our website at www.bridgingapps.org.

The iPad is popular due to the wide variety of both free and paid educational apps available for it. iPads are super intuitive and easy to use. Some of our BridgingApps favorite apps such as ProLoQuo2Go and Todo Math are not yet available on Android or Windows platforms. At BridgingApps we match apps to people and their specific needs. We review apps used in a variety of settings including education, language, healthcare, fitness, social skills, fine arts which can include trackers, switch accessibility, fine motor skills, AAC/communication apps, as well as apps designed just for fun. Because we are constantly reviewing apps, we have a good feel for the types of apps that are on the market and what platforms you can purchase them on.

Although the iPad is more expensive than the other tablets on both the Android and Windows platforms, using a tool like the one we shared in the additional resources of section 2 of this course will help you to outline your specific needs.

Here at BridgingApps we believe that it is more important to focus on the person who will be using the technology, rather than the device itself.


We would encourage you to consider the pros and cons listed on the SETT Framework tool in section 2 so that you can find the right device to fit you or the user's needs.

03:50

It is interesting to note that iOS or Apple products manufacture their own tablets. Android tablets, on the other hand, are built by multiple manufacturers. For example, you can go to Best Buy and purchase an Android tablet that is made by Samsung, which is one of the bigger companies out there and see a comparable tablet that is manufactured by LG or Asus. While strolling down the aisle you might start to compare it to the iPad. We feel like they are very different tablets, almost like comparing apples to oranges. One might be tart and juicy, while the other might be sweet and crisp. You have to personalize your shopping for your specific needs.

What are you looking for? We believe that it is more important to focus on the person who will be using the technology, rather than the device itself. What are that person's needs? Keep in mind that the goals and skills inventory should dictate your selection of devices, not just your desire alone. You should also look for features that match your needs. For example, you might be visually impaired. Does the device read aloud text messages or web pages? Does the device allow you to zoom or magnify the words and icons on your screen with ease? Consider trying out the device before you buy. Many educational service centers, AT evaluation centers, state AT labs, even some libraries have devices that you can try out before you buy. You can also shop at big name retailers where they have devices on display for you to test out. An example of one of these centers is BridgingApps a division of Easter Seals located in Houston, Texas. We are part of a large non-profit organization that offers disability services to the community. We are one of the 16 assistive technology labs in the state of Texas that provides resources to teachers, therapists, families, caregivers, and people with special needs for individuals to come in and try out devices and apps. This is especially helpful when you consider that not only the devices, but also some of the apps (especially ones used for communication like ProLoQuo2Go can be very expensive). Not only do we have the devices and apps for people to explore, but we are also staffed with people that can help show you applicable ways that these devices and apps can be used specific to your needs. Try before you buy. We cannot stress that enough. In the additional resources for this section, we have included a link that lists the assistive technology labs by state.

Technology is constantly evolving and improving. We recommend buying the least expensive device to achieve your goals. Keep in mind that young users tend to break things. Apple products are not expandable. This means that you cannot just plug in a flash drive to increase the storage space. You also cannot run to your nearest retailer to have them upgrade your device by giving you more memory.

As you might be considering each platform, keep in mind the pros and cons.

03:11

In terms of money, Android devices are less expensive than Apple products. But remember, there are not as many apps and there are not as many accessibility features that are built-in to Android devices as there are on Apple devices. On the flip side, most Android devices have upgradeable memory and some have a USB port that can make it easier to use with peripherals such as a printer or an external speaker and/or microphone. And because Androids are produced by multiple manufacturers, they are available in a variety of sizes and prices. It is important to consider the size that you need when comparing devices and their respective prices. A smaller device like an iPod Touch or a Galaxy Phone for example is portable and easy to carry, but the screen is too small for younger users or individuals with low vision.

With multiple manufacturers, more people can be involved in developing new features and product requests. This contributes to the operating system being updated frequently in order to accommodate these new technology innovations. At the same time, having multiple manufacturers could be a challenge because, in addition to the update of the operating system, the device itself sometimes has to be optimized for the particular tablet, making each manufacturer responsible for finalizing the update for the make and model of the device. Sometimes the device itself becomes out of date with the newest operating system and has to be replaced. This might mean the a newer device would have a different processor (or “brain” requiring it to work faster), additional or different ports for media cards, and/or an improved camera lens for capturing images, which can make frequent updates a problem in the Android market.

It is possible that some manufacturers stop updating software for some models of devices after newer generation hardware is released, making an older model obsolete. If you are looking at purchasing an Android device, you might want to stick with the larger companies like Samsung and Asus, as they do a pretty good job at updating their software. There are some off-brands, possibly ones that you might find at discount retailers or websites that once a particular model of hardware is made, although Android has another version of software available, it is not optimized for your particular device so an update from the manufacturer might not be available unless you become skilled in doing your own updates, which does not prove to be very easy if you are not all that technical. We have found that Nabi Tablets are sturdy and run on Android. They are great to use for reinforcement especially for kids who use an iPad for AAC or communication and are a great option are in the market to purchase a fun tablet that looks totally different from a device that is strictly used for communication or education.

03:03

eReaders like the Kindle, Kindle Fire, and the Nook are great because they double as a tablet, but are also a place to store and read digital books and other content. Some devices on the Fire OS even have a read and record option, allowing you to create your own audio books or add audio to digital content from your Amazon account without needing to purchase a separate app like ones you might have to do on an Apple device. This would be a great feature for a teacher that has user specific content on devices in the classroom and wants to show individual and comparable growth of reading fluency in students.

With the latest update of Fire OS 4.0, several improvements were made to better accommodate people with disabilities. For example, for the blind and visually impaired features like screen reader you can easily request that whatever is on the screen be read aloud. Similar to Apples' gestures, Fire has enabled “Explore By Touch” with an onscreen tutorial. There is also Braille support on the eReaders. Like Android and Apple, the screen can be magnified, larger font size can be enabled and readers can adjust their level of contrast between the text and the background. For hearing accomodations, you can adjust the audio type from stereo to mono, which could be helpful if you are only using one earbud or are only able to hear out of one ear.

If you would like to read your eBooks from an Amazon account, with a simple app install from the Google Play or Apple Store, you can download the Kindle app for free. There is a separate app that can be downloaded, allows you to view video in the Prime Instant Video queue or watch your purchased digital content with the ability to download it to your device for viewing while offline (if there is enough space on your device). eReaders like the Kindle Fire and Nook are affordable in price, but you have to consider that they are limited in the number of apps available for special needs. But then again, not being able to load the device with apps might be less of a distraction for someone that might have attention issues like ADD, staying focused, or completing multiple tasks at once. There are some games that are available in the Amazon store, and there are some tablets like the Galaxy Tab Nook that also have access to the Android store as well, giving you two stores to purchase from.

02:30

If you are already a Windows user and one of your priorities in searching for a tablet is finding something that is familiar to you a Windows tablet might be for you. We have found that some teen and adults who are already proficient windows users and do not need educational apps are using windows tablets, such as the Surface by Microsoft for a laptop replacement as well. Keep in mind that there are very few educational apps available for Windows but there are some good utility apps that help with executive functioning along with productivity tools, including the Microsoft Office suite of apps (Word, Powerpoint, Outlook, OneNote, and Excel.

One thing we like about the Windows operating system is the ability to enable parental controls and settings from any online computer while signed into your account. For example, you can restrict which hours a computer can be accessed, read reports on websites visited most often, block particular websites, and even control how many hours your child plays certain games. However, we did not like that although you have the ability to set up parental controls conveniently on the web, in a restricted account you have to download programs for your child to use separately, which can be a challenge.

We know that Windows tablets are popular among some people due to the fact that they have all the elements of a PC. On that note, one thing to keep in mind is that with some tablets on the Windows platform if you are looking to use the device with an external keyboard and mouse, you have to buy both a Bluetooth mouse and a Bluetooth keyboard separately and more than likely have to charge your keyboard separately from your tablet (requiring two plugs). We have found that if you are planning to use your device for AAC or communication, a Windows device is not the best option, as there are very few of the big name apps like ProLoQuo2Go are available on the Windows operating system. If you already have a Windows device and would like to use it for communication, you might try “TalkingTiles” and “TapToTalk” which are among the few AAC apps available for download in the Windows store.

Practice Activity
00:18
Section 4: Protecting a Device
00:36

Cases and device transportation can be one of the most crucial decisions to can make about the safety and usability of a mobile device. I will discuss and show a variety of cases for keeping a device safe and protected, but also with considerations for the environment in which an individual user will be interacting with the device. Home, school, therapy, and the community at large will be discussed. There are many options for children, teens and adult users that keep the device protected as well as match the abilities and needs of the person using the device.

01:00

There are many options for children, teens and adult users that keep the device protected as well as match the abilities and needs of the person using the device. We will show you some great options.

Cases and how to transport a device from one location to another can be one of the most crucial decisions you can make about the safety and usability of a mobile device. I will discuss and show a variety of cases for keeping a device safe and protected, but also with considerations for the environment in which an individual user will be interacting with the device. Home, school, therapy, and the community at large will be discussed. There are many options for children, teens and adult users that keep the device protected as well as match the abilities and needs of the person using the device.

Four things to consider:

  • Material considerations - waterproof, foam and shock resistant, built-in handle
  • Durability & mobility
  • Stand for multiple positions
  • Keyboard built-in for those who cannot write, but need to type
03:48

We will break it down into three parts. Let's start out with the soft and squishy cases that tend to work well with younger kids. We love the fact that they are shock absorbent if the device takes a fall and we also look for things that are easy to clean. Some of these cases will fit into a charging station if you are working in a classroom with multiple devices, and some will not. You will want to take a close look at the dimensions if that is important to you. Most of the cases that we will share in this lecture are specifically for the iPad, but there are a couple that are also available for Samsung Galaxy tablets.

Big Grips Cases for the iPod Touch, iPad, iPad Mini and Carrying System
07:32
05:35
The iBallz Case

The GoNow Case for the iPad and iPad Mini is a new case by the company Attainments. It is ideal for an AAC user using the iPad. The solid plastic casing and internal rubber liner help keep the iPad safe from bumps and drops. This added security does not add too much weight to the iPad and is easy for a small child to carry. The front of the case also includes a switch to access the magnetic lock/unlock feature built into the iPad and other controls like volume, power, charging dock and headphone jack are accessible too. The case is designed to acoustically boost sound output from the iPad without the use of batteries or a charger. The GoNow Case is available for the iPad (second, third, and fourth generations) and iPad Mini.
Features:
Requires no batteries
Built-in handle
Absorbs shocks
Improves audio
Magnetic lock/unlock switch
Easy access to charging dock

More information can be found at Attainment Company.
Other Cases We Like
04:08
Carrying Systems
04:00
Section 4, Protecting a Device
2 questions
Section 5: Sensory Considerations
00:58

In many environments the volume on mobile devices is not sufficient for some users. Older adults, hearing impaired, or those who may be using a mobile device to communicate in a group situation or noisy environment may find the noise output on a mobile device insufficient.

In this section I will cover several options for enhancing the sound quality of a mobile device in a one-on-one, small group or large group situation. When should you select headphones? In which situation are speakers necessary?

Our Favorite Speakers and Headphones
04:13
Practice Activity
00:12
Section 6: Transporting and Environmental Concerns
05:36

Tabletop Suction Mount: http://bridgingapps.org/2013/08/tabletop-suction-mount-for-ipad/

This product provides strong and stable mounting for your iPad 1 or 2 in either portrait or landscape orientation. The cradle securely holds the iPad steady while it's in use and still provides access to all controls and jacks.

USD $105.00

This item can be purchased from AbleNet.

RJ Cooper Tablet Mount:

http://bridgingapps.org/2013/04/rj-cooper-tablet-mount-and-arm/

RJ Cooper has created solutions for tablets, e-readers/devices including iPad, Nook, Xoom, and Kindle in virtually any case. His system consists of three parts: the Super-Clamp, Mounting arm (several kinds) and a tablet holder.

Each arm includes a Super-Clamp, which allows the user to connect the arm securely to wheelchairs, bedrails, tables, etc. Arms range from the 6” Short Arm, the adjustable 3-13” Mini-Arm, the 24” Articulating Arm, and triple-jointed Magic Arm. Nine year old Jaden, pictured left, is using the Articulating Arm with his iPad.

RJ Cooper makes tablet holders for the iPad (first, second, and third generations) and an adjustable tablet holder that can hold other tablets, readers and devices. Devices can easily be removed from the tablet holder, or detached from the mounting arm thanks to the Quick Connect lever.

Tournez Mount:

http://bridgingapps.org/2012/01/tournez-clamp-mount-for-ipad-first-generation/

Tournez C-Clamp:

http://bridgingapps.org/2012/01/tournez-c-clamp-mount-for-ipad2/

hands-free. With Tournez iPad2 mounting system from The Joy Factory, you can work comfortably on your iPad2 anywhere you use it in your home or office–in the kitchen, garage, bedroom, at your desk or in a conference room. The strong, carbon-fiber design is modern and stylish, so it blends in nicely with every dcor. Tournez saves you space, enables comfortable iPad2 use and provides a stylish way to display information, for example in a reception area or kiosk. Tournez, Retractable Carbon Fiber C- Clamp Mount with 360 Angle Adjust is easy to install on any hard surface regardless of shape such as desk, bar, bookshelf, countertop, armrest, and the list goes on. It allows the ultimate versatility to use your iPad2 in any situation and in any environment. Read recipes, play games, and share photos and videos comfortably in any room. The Snap-n-Roll(TM) design lets you snap the removable, protective hard shell case into the mount quickly and without hassle. Once mounted, you can move the flexible arm to any angle or height for maximum comfort. The case even rotates 360 in the mount for adjustable portrait and landscape viewing, and it's compatible with The Joy Factory's Folio360 II Case/Stand. Read recipes, play games, share photos or information and work comfortably anywhere in your home or office–Tournez is perfect for all the ways you use your iPad2.. Tournez, Retractable Carbon Fiber iPad 2 Clamp Mount with 360 Angle Adjust is easy to install on a desk, headboard, bookshelf or table. Read books, play games, and share photos and videos comfortably in any room. The Snap-n-Roll(TM) design lets you snap the removable, protective hard shell case into the mount quickly and without hassle. Once mounted, you can move the flexible arm to any angle or height for maximum comfort. The case even rotates 360 in the mount for adjustable portrait and landscape viewing, and it's compatible with The Joy Factory's Folio360 Case/Stand. Read recipes, play games, share photos or information and work comfortably anywhere in your home or office–Tournez is perfect for all the ways you use your iPad 2.

Enabling Devices Mount System

http://bridgingapps.org/2011/07/mount-an-ipad-to-wheelchairs-bedrails-and-tables/

Enabling Devices introduces the ultimate accessory – a mounting system that makes the iPad accessible to all. This unique system is designed to provide maximum flexibility and reach when mounting on wheelchairs, bedrails and tables.

The Mounting System comes in three parts:

  • Mounting Platform – designed for easy access to all electronic ports of both the iPad1 and 2; securely holds the iPad with two flexible cords
  • Light Duty Mounting Arm – expands from 14 “L to 24″L and can be positioned in an unlimited number of ways allowing for optimum viewing
  • Clamp – heavy duty clamp allows for secure mounting
  • Can be purchased on Amazon for $331

Bee Towers Tablet Floor Stand

http://www.xarmotion.com/

  • Compatible with Kindle,ipad Air, all ipad, ereader,all general tablets 5in to 12in diagonal size
  • Abjustable for both height and width and fits most tablet thickness
  • Flip spring locking mechanism easily locks your tablet securely against the thickness pad
  • Telescoping body by a push of button let you adjust your desire height and automatically locks it to position when you release.
  • The arm is extendable and can also swivel horizontally 360 degrees
  • Can be purchased at Amazon for $199
Practice Activity
00:12
Section 7: Access
00:19

This section will focus on the finer points of accessories that offer alternate ways to access a device. Traditionally, you use a smartphone or a tablet with your finger to activate areas on the screen. However, some users with cerebral palsy, those recovering from a stroke, or individuals with limited fine motor movements because of injury or disease cannot activate the device with a single finger.

Consider where you started and where you are now. Up until this point, you have selected an appropriate case or carrying system, a mount if you need one, and accessories and add-ons that will allow you to interact with your device.

In this section I will discuss how accessories like a stylus and keyboard can serve as an assistive tool to access a device, particularly with those conditions involving the inability to have full use of hands or fingers.

Keyguards & Bubcaps
04:03
01:37

TacScreen is a clear, film-like cover that adds the sense of touch to flat touch-screen devices, allowing users to actually feel the letters, numbers and sight words.

This product was developed by the parent of a child diagnosed with dyslexia, auditory processing disorder, dysgraphia and ADHD — a parent who watched a brilliant, active child that excelled in problem solving struggle with the fundamentals of early education like learning the alphabet, correlating sounds to letters, retaining sight words, phonetics and spelling.

TacScreen is particularly appropriate for learners diagnosed with dyslexia, dysgraphia, ADHD, and autism as well as for other groups of tactile learners.

Keyboards:

  • While some special needs users are great with the touchscreen keyboard, there can be two advantages to attaching an external keyboard to the iPad. First, it's easier for people with fine motor issues to get an accurate touch.
  • Second, if you're trying to work with multiple languages with different alphabets, you can attach character stickers on to keys rather than flipping between the iPad's language options.

The Touchfire Screen-Top Keyboards fits right over the iPad's on-screen keyboard and is completely transparent, so you can always see the keys underneath it.

It is soft and supple if you swipe through it horizontally – you can use your iPad right through it. Yet it is stiff enough vertically to let you rest your fingers on the home row keys without accidentally triggering the touch screen. When you type, the Touchfire keyboard responds with just the right amount of resistance and spring-back to feel like a lively and responsive keyboard. Amazing!

When you want it out of the way, simply fold it down. The corner magnets keep it neatly folded below the screen.The Touchfire keyboard attaches to the iPad 2/3/4 using the magnets built into those tablets. Its available on Amazon for $39.99.

The last keyboard we'll talk about is the the TacType which is previously known as the iKeyboard. The updated TacType Keyboard is easy to attach, where you can just set it on top of the screen or actually stick it onto the iPad onscreen keyboard, using the adhesive that it comes with. Now you can touch-type on your iPad keyboard, typing faster and more accurately. The TacType transforms your iPad's virtual keyboard into a real keyboard.

The TacType Keyboard piggybacks on your iPad keyboard so that wherever your iPad goes, your TacType tags along. The sticky backing and slim and lightweight design allows for use in a variety of positions and can fit with some iPad cases, including Apple's Smart Cover. The keyboard leaves no residue and requires no charging.

The TacType Keyboard comes in black or white and it is also a great accessory for people with ADHD, autism, and tactile learners. It is available on Amazon also for $22.99.

03:39

Because touch-based mobile devices such as the iPad and smartphones have a direct interface (no mouse, track pad, joystick or external mechanism required to operate the device) users can access mobile devices more easily than a traditional computer. While such access has been life-changing for many people with special needs, there are others who may have trouble accessing a device directly.

For those who cannot isolate a finger, have a fisted grasp or who lack the control to select intentionally, some other method of access may be helpful. There are many instances where an assistive stylus can help. They are relatively low-cost solutions. You have probably seen them in stores in the electronics section and they are readily available off the shelf. However, there are other adaptive styluses available that may be helpful for your unique situation. While they may not be usable for all situations, for many this simple solution can mean the difference between using a device and not using it.

The Flex Stylus, one of the adaptive styluses made by Shapedad is a bendable strip made from a special metal. The user can bend it in the angle that best suits their needs. this stylus can be used for multiple purposes and when a special tip, more like a conductive plug, so that it can work for a tablet or smartphone. A strip of braided cotton works as a sleeve covered with a sleeve over a tube made out of silicone for a steady grip.

The Finger Stylus is another one of Shapedad's customized styli. It features a “plug and play” functionality, as it acts as a natural extension to your finger. Just like many of the products on Shapedad's Etsy site, this particular stylus was invented for a quadriplegic client who could not intentionally move her fingers, but she could move her wrist and arms in order to write. This big thimble-like stylus covered in capacitive material can also help someone whose fingernails keep getting in the way while using touch screen technology.

Shadedad will customize just about any stylus for you and adapt it to your needs. They started out making "Stylus Socks" and quadriplegic clients were using them to cover their mouth sticks, in order to access their device. On their Etsy page Shapedad says, "In an effort to address all special needs and comfort levels when working with capacitive touch screen devices, we listen carefully to client needs and adapt them in our extensive styli portfolio." If you do not see what you are looking for you can contact them directly and they will customize a stylus for your needs.

We mentioned that you do not just have to look for adaptive styli. We have found great ones in local stores and online. You can find them just about anywhere technology accessories are sold and they are relatively inexpensive.

This is the AluPen made by Just Mobile. It looks like a big chunky crayon or pencil and it is made out of aluminum with a thick nub. It is very responsive and comes in a number of colors. You can purchase it on Amazon starting at $14.95.

Practice Activity
00:12
Section 8: Conclusion
01:10

It is a tool, not a magic bullet:

  • Be prepared to work hard
  • Use in targeted ways
  • Set boundaries
  • Build skills and keep goals in mind
  • Be involved in using it WITH your special needs user
  • Get creative and have fun
Course Review
00:23
Practice Activity & Reflection
00:12
Bonus
02:08
Course Resources
2 pages

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Instructor Biography

BridgingApps -, a program of Easter Seals Houston

BridgingApps, a program of Easter Seals Houston, provides the access, education, and resources needed to effectively use mobile, touch-based devices to help people with disabilities communicate, exceed educational goals, and reach their fullest potential. BridgingApps includes a website, app reviews by therapists and special education teachers, a custom app search engine, assistive technology labs, monthly in person meetings in Houston, Fort Worth, Rio Grande Valley and Austin, training options for parents, organizations and schools.

Because of the relatively recent appearance of mobile technology, evidenced-based data is only slowly emerging on how people with disabilities are effectively using mobile devices to improve skills and become more independent, yet we at BridgingApps see the impact of this technology on people's lives every day. For us, success is measured by a child who is nonverbal tells his mother “I love you" for the first time, a grandmother who proudly and joyfully texts with her grandson, and the teenager with Autism who lands his first job because he successfully uses his iPod Touch as his job coach. Creating opportunities to bring these successes to scale is and continues to be our goal.

Instructor Biography

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