The iPad has proven wildly popular for people looking to watch a movie on their morning commute, or browse their favorite newspaper online, but for many disabled people, the device serves a much more powerful purpose.
An Oct. 29 article in the New York Times tells the story of Owen Cain, a 7-year-old boy whose motor-neuron disease, spinal muscular atrophy, has left him paralyzed and often dependent on a respirator to breathe.
Introduced to an iPad by his nurse in June, a new world of communication and expression has been made available to Owen; on first use Owen was able to open an iPad application called Gravitarium, which plays music while the user creates landscapes of stars on the touch screen.
Other iPad apps like Math Magic helped Owen learn math, and Proloquo2Go spoke commands such as “I need to go to the bathroom” with the touch of an icon.
Because of the iPadâs touch sensitive screen , the apps have been easy for Owen to open and manipulate. (Computer keyboards and mice have proven too difficult for him, and prevented him from using several computerized communication devices in the past).
The NYT article reports that the iPad has drawn support from several sectors of the health care and therapeutic communities because features such as closed-captioning, magnification, and audible readout functions are built-in to the device, allowing people whose disabilities hamper their communication abilities to more easily have a voice.