iPad: The Good. Speech Generation, EADLs, and Beyond!

Universal/accessible design of the home from an occupational therapy and a construction perspective. This blog is part of a quest for cool, convenient, functional design that makes life safer, easier, and as maintenance-free as possible. It's about the lifestyle.
Ok, ok. I can't be negative all of the time, it's not in my nature. Considering that the person in mind has tried the iPad and is able to access it consistently, read on.

The iPad can be good, very good, for people whose insurance may not cover an speech device, who can't access their standard remote control, or who fatigue quickly with the task of typing because the keyboard keys provide too much resistance, and so on and so forth. There are apps, yes, tons of apps, that can help. The hardest part comes in choosing: How can you ensure that you are getting what you need out of an app?

  • Read the Reviews on iTunes. If the app sounds good, go to the next point:
  • Get out of iTunes and go to the internet. Google it, and check out the developer's website.
  • Still look good? Try to find someone around who has it.
  • You may need to bite the bullet and buy it. Reality is that there are many ways to skin a cat, or turn on your TV. What works for me may not work for you, and sometimes buying it is the best way to figure it out. But do it realistically, realizing that this could be the best thing since sliced bread...but more realistically it will have some drawbacks.
Some developers of apps have "Resource Center" links on their website. Proloquo2go is one, they have lists of people in and out of the US that have their app available for trials. Many of the Assistive Technology centers around have iPads with appropriate apps preloaded for evaluations. Go there, and try it before you buy it.
Generally speaking, apps that may be most appropriate for the population of people with disabilities include:
  • Speech Generating apps
  • Electronic Aids to Daily Living (EADL)
  • Organization (note and schedule keeping)
  • Book Reading
The first two categories I will discuss here. The next 2 will be coming...

Speech generating apps are popping up all over. Proloquo2go remains the most popular, and the most costly at $190. Positives?
  • Comes standard with a large repertoire of Folders, Pages, Photos
  • 4 voices included (male and female adult, male and female child)
  • Is easy to program - new folders, pages, your own recorded saying and photos, etc.
  • The Buttons can not be resized, or moved as desired on the page
  • Potential Dealbreaker: The style of the app can not be modified to remove the "Back" or include a larger "backspace" icon, etc. It is, what it is.
Other speech generating apps that may or may not be useful include Verbally, a word bank style app that is adult-friendly, especially adults with ALS seem to like this app. And best of all, it is FREE!!! and doesn't require the internet for use.

Scene Speak is another interesting app that I really liked when I first saw it, but am on the fence about now.

iPad Screenshot 1

This app has about 12 built-in pages, but really shines when used with the user's own pictures. The programmer imports a picture and programs (audio) hotspots on the picture in various places that the user then activates for voice output. I love how easy it is to program it, but the "books" and "library" thing is a bit much, and the hotspots are not visible...so the user needs to possess a decent memory to remember what and where hotspots are programmed. The hotspots proved difficult for the child (with recent Traumatic Brain Injury) I was working with to access as she didn't have the touch capable of activating them. But, overall, I LoVe the idea for this app, and at $15 it's a great deal for speech generation.

Before deciding on an app, think about:
  • Does it need to be icon, picture, or text based?
  • Does the user need an alternative means (other than touch screen) to access it?
  • What type of speech? Can it be synthesized, or does the user like real voices?
  • How easy is it to modify (add, delete, etc) icons?
There are options for each of these apps. Just make sure you find the one that works best for the person who needs to use it.

Onto the EADLs...
The basic remote:
On iTunes, this Remote control app controls iTunes and your Apple TV. But most often, people want more...much more. Want to use your iPad as a universal remote for your home devices? There are 2 main ways to go about it.
  • Use an app, paired with an Infrared Dongle to send signals
  • Use an app, paired with a device that will communicate with a web server to control your home devices
Apps + Dongles include the L5 Remote and RedEye series by ThinkFlood. The IR dongle isn't very expensive (around $50), and the app is likely to have the IR codes for your devices built-in, or enables fairly simple programming. But, at this time these are limited to IR devices. Factors to take into consideration include:
  • Physical management of the dongle (is the user able to take in/take out the dongle?)
  • Placement of the dongle on the iPad/Phone/Pod? (does it plug into the headphone socket or the USB socket?)
  • Some of the apps will turn the iPhone/Pod/Pad screen upside down automatically to accommodate the dongle (the dongle must be pointed toward the device to work.). Can the user turn the iPad to accommodate this adjustment?
  • And, as easy as it may be to program? It may be quite easy to also mess it up.

L5 Remote

Apps+Devices are likely to be more pricey. ThinkFlood just released their RedEye Pro that resides in this category. The iTach by Global Cache is an example of a device that will communicate with your iPad to control devices including IR, Radio Frequency (RF, ex. Garage Door), and X10 (ex. lamps, fans, etc.). Requires a bit more programming and Techiness to get you up and going, but for a person who needs to be able to control numerous devices in their environment and can access the iPad - it's a good option.

iTach WF2IR
iTach for WiFi to IR devices

Another "iPod as a remote control" that may be beneficial is to use the iPad to access the user's computer. There are apps that allow the iPad to act as a computer mouse.
I have experienced users who have plenty of skillz to access their iPod, but typing on a standard keyboard requires too much effort, time, and energy. There are apps (with accompanying software) that will allow the iPod to act as their personal computer screen. Note that these apps (or at least the good ones) also require software to be downloaded onto the computer. VNC Viewer is an example, and pairs with the VNC software. I haven't tried many of these apps, but make sure you read the reviews, and my bet is that you'll pay for what you get.


I believe I've mumbled on enough in this post...when in doubt? Find a professional to help with your decision making, and try before you buy.
Coming soon: Organization Apps and Book Reading...

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