California Deafblind Services

Gloria: Current Generation of Tablet Computers and Deaf-Blindness

01/21/2011 12:50

(You may comment on this blog entry - see below.)

How can some of the children who are deaf-blind take advantage of the current generation of tablet computers? My colleague Cristi Saylor (DHH teacher) brought to my attention an internet news clip showing an application software, or an “app”, that a father created for his son whose communication skills are emerging but who cannot speak. The app is called “Verbal Victor.”

Here is the link to the video:

This video made me think about the use of tablet computers, in this particular example the use of an iPad and an iPod Touch, and how children who are deaf-blind could benefit from devices such as these and from apps such as “Verbal Victor.”

The use of tablet computers would be appropriate for the segment of our population who can use their vision to see the images on the screen, who have the dexterity to touch the images on the screen, and who may or may not have enough hearing, with the help of their hearing devices, to listen to the sound output of the iPad.

The nice thing about these current-generation tablet computers is that they are portable, much more so than a notebook or laptop computer. They are touch sensitive, reasonably sturdy, with great screen resolution so that even in the smaller models the image is crisp and well contrasted. There is, however, an advantage to the larger models like the iPad because of dexterity or motor issues with some of the population that could benefit from these devices.

And do not forget that these devices are really computers with fantastic display capabilities, so the content can be custom programmed for the child. The display technologies involved are also very flexible. The images can be adjusted in size, color, luminosity and contrast extensively, which is a great advantage for children with low vision. Also, because of the intuitive nature of their use, it may be easier for a child to use it independently.

Watching that parent demonstrate his child’s communication system also made me aware of the ease of response on the tablet, and how many of the children who are deaf-blind need more time to make choices. A tablet naturally responds to user gestures at almost any speed, and there is no need to press with force, simple touch is enough. Also, because it doesn’t have any physical keyboard the linkage between action and effect is much more direct: you touch the image of what you want and not a key somewhere else that represents it more or less arbitrarily.

And there is plenty to start with. Gail Leslie from DB Info Services shared with me a document that has a long list of apps that can be used with children who have special needs. The apps on this list are not only used for communication purposes. This document was updated on 4/10/2010 and is twenty-three pages long. I am sure someone is creating a new app that could be added to this list as I write:

iPhone-iPad-and-iPod-touch-Apps-for-Special-Education1.pdf (2 MB)

Tablets could be used in so many ways. The child can use it to makes choices (like the child in the video), read a story as complex or as simple as the child needs, make a journal of a recent experience based on electronic pictures taken in the activity, create their schedule for the school day, make a list of groceries with their pictures that the child needs to purchase, etc. And the nice thing about a tablet or touch player is that the child could bring it along with them to the supermarket, or to any other place where they need it.

I have also heard about another child who has CHARGE Syndrome, good functional vision and a cochlear implant, who loves using an iPad as a communication device. Please share with us if you are using any tablet and app with your child/student, how they are using it, and for what purpose. Is your child/student using the iPad or an iPod Touch? In what ways?




Topic: Current Generation of Tablet Computers and Deaf-Blindness

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Date: 06/24/2011

By: Kathy Hughes

Subject: IPad

I began using my iPad with several apps at school with a first grader with CHARGE. We have used several tracing letter and number apps, verbal victor, and I am excited about SeeTouchLearn...although I need to sign the request, it allows for increased receptive language trials. I was not surprised by the speed that my student used pictures, zoom pinching, screen orientation, and found his way through apps. It also holds his attention for longer periods of time.

I continue to search for apps that are useful and compliment the classroom instruction. Our school just added several iPads and next year the classroom will have greater access


Date: 01/27/2011

By: Cristi Saylor

Subject: iPad experiments with students

Over the past few weeks I've begun experimenting with the iPad and my students who range from hard of heraing to deaf to special Ed to general Ed. (I'm a DHH itinerant teacher).
So far I've seen that each student has been interested in using it - I've used two baby apps to teach iPad skills plus two communication apps - Verbal Victor ($7) and Tap to Talk (free). Sound quality, picture quality, glare and dexterity are all playing a role in how well a student uses it for communication. As for ease of use I'm liking Verbal Victor especially for emerging communicators. For students who can handle sets and subsets Tap to Talk is a quick and easy app or a more complicated and well designed app is Touch chat($145).
Still with all the drawbacks I can see using this for kids in more capacities than communication. For example it was one of the few things that held a young pupil's attention for longer than one minute. Now the challenge is to create apps that address the needs of a wide variety of people and can contribute to everyone's quality of life - one such innovation is the device that allows one to swipe in the air and the iPad screen responds. As I continue to experiment I'll post comments and / or write articles. And I hope everyone else does too. There's so much to be learned from each others' experiences.


Date: 01/26/2011

By: Gloria Rodriguez-Gil

Subject: response to previous comments and new link

Terena Scott brought the issue of glare with her daughter and this can be a problem for many children with low vision. The iPad's glossy screen can be difficult to see in certain environments. The anti-glare protector sheet recommended by Susan Hiscutt can help with this problem because it helps to defuse the light so it's not reflected straight into the child's eyes.

I think Susan Hiscutt makes a great point about the fact that the iPad is "so normal," in comparison with other communication devices that are being used for communication. It will be interesting to see how this plays out in her son's seventh grade class, in the sense that perhaps he may have more interactions with his typical peers.

Paddi Davies from NCDB brought to our attention the following blog.

The statement's blog says that it is "design to document infant-toddlers with disabilities using and iPad to promote their development..."


Date: 01/25/2011

By: Susan Hiscutt

Subject: iPAD

We purchased an iPAD for our 13 year old son, who has CHARGE Syndrome, for his Christmas present! We have downloaded the app Proloque2Go. We are still learning how to use both and how to incorporate them in his daily life. We are hoping to meet with his special ed teacher & school SLP (he is fully included in 7th grade), but the lovely winter weather we keep having is hindering this effort! Maybe one day. Our private SLP is very excited about incorporating it into our son's communication modes. He is non-verbal, uses sign language for expressive language and uses sign/verbal for receptive language.

The iPAD is really cool and has MANY possibilities. The best thing is it is so "normal" and not like any of the other "communication devices" we have tried before.

I too just saw the news story about the Verbal Victor, but have not checked out the app. The price is much better than the Proloque2Go. Proloque2Go has over 7,000 pictures and you can add to it. Not sure what the Verbal Victor has to offer.

I would love to hear from others who are using the iPAD with children with DB or other disabilities and see how they are incorporating its use into their child's life. I have heard that the iPAD/iTouch is being used by children with Autism too.

My comment to the post above, we purchased a anti-glare screen protector sheet to go with our iPAD. We haven't used the iPAD out in the bright sun, but we don't seem to have any problem with glare or our son's ability to see the screen.

This new technology and all the apps that have been and are being created is really exciting. I am looking forward to see how they will open doors for my son and so many others!

Keep sharing what you learn!


Date: 01/24/2011

By: Terena Scott

Subject: iPad

I purchased an iPad for my deaf blind teenaged daughter to see if what something she could use. She also has ataxia (tremors) in her hands, so using a computer can be tricky. It's taken several months, but she can now scroll through photos and can touch the screen with just the right amount of sensitivity. She has also learned how to enlarge a photo by double tapping and is learning how to "stretch" her fingers to make it even bigger. She isn't completely independent using it, but I think in time she may be.

The screen appears to be clear enough for her to see quite a lot of detail, but glare is a problem, so we have to be careful at what angle she has it. We haven't enlarged the icons, but she's memorized their position, so as long as I'm careful not to rearrange them too much when we add aps, it works well.

Overall, I'm pleased with this tool and I think over time it will be very useful for her. We're now looking at ways to use it in school.