It is now becoming increasingly possible for individuals to use their mainstream devices as an assistive technology (AT) device. When Ruo En came to our centre, she already had an iPad. So, we explored how we could use her iPad to enable her to better communicate.
Ruo En has cerebral palsy and has uncontrolled movements which makes it difficult to access items on her iPad touch screen. A Bluetooth switch (Blue2 by Ablenet) was introduced. The Blue2 was paired with the iPad through Bluetooth and was connected to a jelly bean switch. Ruo En then used the ‘Switch Control’ function from the ‘Accessibility’options in her iPad’s iOS to control the device. She also uses switch control to use the Communication App (Touch Chat HD with WordPower 20). The Touch Chat App is a commerically available app that was loaded onto her iPad. It was chosen for its systematic linguistic organisation. A commercially available mount (Joy Mount) is used to hold the iPad, and is clamped onto her lap tray.
The photo above shows Ruo En and her AAC set up. There are, of course, disadvantages to using mainstream devices instead of dedicated devices for AAC. The batteries on the mainstream devices do not last as long, and so a ‘heavy duty’ communicator may find that his ‘voice’ cannot be used half way through the day. This is not optimal, if you consider that communication should be occurring all the time! Also, since the Bluetooth connection is not always as stable, and signals may drop.
Eventually, Ruo En may need an integrated and dedicated device, especially as her communication and computer access needs increase. However, for the moment, these mainstream devices have empowered this little girl with the ability to express herself!
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