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19 April 2010

iPad drawing interest as device for disabled

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Most people view the iPad as a slick multi-media entertainment platform, but Gregg Vanderheiden, a university professor, sees other potential uses for Apple's new touchscreen device

"Say you have somebody who's had a stroke, for example, and they wake up and they can't communicate," said Vanderheiden, director of the Trace Research and Development Center at the University of Wisconsin at Madison.

"Instead of buying a $5000 communications aid you take out your iPad and download an app and -- bam! -- they can communicate," he said.

The Trace Center helps people who are unable to speak and have disabilities to communicate and Vanderheiden is one of a number of researchers and others excited about the iPad as a relatively low-cost communications tool.

"There's a lot of interest in the iPad," said Karen Sheehan, the executive director of the Alliance for Technology Access, a California-based group that seeks to expand the use of technology by children and adults with disabilities.

Stroke victims, people with spinal cord injuries, cerebral palsy or ALS, a paralysing nerve disease, and children or adults with autism are seen as just some of those who could potentially benefit from the iPad.

"Anyone who's non-verbal and needs a device to speak for them," said Sheehan. "People with Alzheimer's who do better with graphic-based communication boards instead of trying to search for a word.

"People with traumatic brain injury, soldiers coming back from Iraq or people who've been in automobile accidents."

(The Economic Times)

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