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Friday, September 28, 2012

Assistive Apps for iPad

[edit:  I also have a page on ChipIn available through this link, if the widget below is not working]

As I'm raising money for my own educational iPad, I thought I should let you know what I'll be using it for and what will be put on it.

First of all, I fully intend my iPad to be an assistive device.  I'll either be taking it to school or using it to test out apps for the Autistic Adult App Project.  As I am in Disability Studies focusing on social change, I hope that I'll be able to use what I learn with my iPad to give back to the greater Autism and disability communities.

Now, I'm planning to install very specific apps on my iPad.  I think that it's fair to let people who are investing in me know what I'm going to do with their donations.

Inspiration Maps: based on Inspiration software that I've been using for the past ten years.  It's a visual brainstorming program that turns a mind-map into an outline.  I can't count all the ways this program has been vital to my essay writing. With this, I can work on essays even away from my computer. (if interested, there is also a free version)

Full Version: $9.99

Blackboard Learn Mobile: this is actually a required app.  A lot of my courses has online content, and my school uses Blackboard systems.  This app thus will allow me to access my course materials anywhere that I have an internet connection.


Open Word:  a word processor, simple enough.  I picked this one because I'm used to the freeware Open Office, and this app supports .odt, .doc, and .docx formats.  Plus it looks like it can connect to Dropbox, Google Drive, and other networks.  
Always good to have a decent word processor.  

 myHomework: homework organizer.  Definitely handy for when I have multiple courses with lots of assignments. 


Miracle Modus: I reviewed this on the Autistic Adult App Project earlier.  This is an app created by an autistic programmer to deal with stress and sensory overload.  I find it quite useful and effective.


EpicWin: one of the first apps I reviewed, and worth every penny.  A to-do list that integrates RPG gaming to give immediate rewards for completing tasks.  I use it to help me remember to do things like take meds, do laundry, and other functioning tasks.  Cause even when I'm away at school, I got to do things like eat, eh. 


Talk Assist:  Another of the first apps I reviewed.  This is a text to speech app, for when I'm having difficulty speaking.  Free and easy to use.


Dictionary.com: a dictionary and thesaurus, pretty basic, but meets most of my immediate needs until I can get to my large volumes.


eSleep Lite: I recently reviewed this one on the Autistic Adult App Project. While designed to help people relax to sleep, I find it useful to relieve stress in order to work!  This is one of the better apps I've found out there. 


Wikipedia: While I'd never suggest referencing Wiki as a source on an essay, it's a good place to look up general information about a topic that I'm unfamiliar with.  At least, most of the time, and until I can get to a library.


ICE Standard: It's not assistive or educational software per say, but I think that it's important to have this one.  In short, it's a medical emergency ID card app.  I have one on my iPod, and I've used the notes section to put in autism-related information for first responders.  While I love the medical jewellery I make, I can include all my meds and contact information, which if I don't have to use in an emergency, can be handy if I ever have to talk to a doctor, especially a doctor that doesn't know me.           Free

I haven't decided yet, but I'm looking into an APA and MLA format guide.  As part of the social sciences, Disability Studies uses APA style, but I find it rather difficult and confusing.  Since I can practically cite MLA in my sleep, and my professors have been pretty good so far about it, I use MLA instead.  However, it's good to have style reference guides to double check, for both styles.  The ones that I am looking at right now are between $1.99 and $3.99.

Now, you'll notice that is eleven apps I have planned for my iPad, and that most of them are 1) free or cheap and 2) not necessarily disability-related.  I don't think I need to explain the cheap part; I have a very limited budget, and if there's something out there that suits my needs without (much) adjustment, I'll use it.

As for the disability aspect, well, part of it is the nature of my disabilities; most of which is information decoding and processing.   When I'm in the classroom, I have a number of accommodations set up, mainly note-takers (who usually emailed me their notes, oh hey look, email access on an iPad! Bam! Got my notes to study wherever I go), and I have texts scanned in for me, access to books on tape, and so on.  When the courses are online, the materials are online, and are in a format that automatically meets my accessibility needs.  At least, most of the time.  So the issue then is my own productivity.

Which leads me to the next part; what you need to remember is that I'm a late-diagnosis.  While diagnosed with ADHD in Grade 1, I didn't know about it until Grade 6, and accommodations were whatever my parents could scramble up with my teachers, cause I had no formal IEP until Grade 10 and I was in a private elementary/junior high school with no special needs programs at all.  I didn't feel comfortable using accommodations until at least Grade 12, which is also the year I was diagnosed as autistic.

So I have a strong belief in doing more with less.  I also had something of a crash course in learning what works best with me.  So I'm not about to waste my or anyone else's time and money on things that is not going to work. Now, I know these apps above are the best apps for me, or most like to be the best apps for me.  It's kinda hard to tell when I've never had an iPad before, and it might be that in the future I'll find more wonderful apps.  But from my experiences and research, these are the best. 

And final part.  The iPad itself.  I know I go on about apps and the wonderful things app technology means for disabilities.  However, let's look at the iPad itself.  I know I just said that I never had an iPad, but I've tested out tablets in stores and whenever I could get them away from friends.  To me, tablet computers are exciting in of themselves, because it is the device that makes apps possible.  It is a small, lightweight computer that is portable, (generally) easy to use, conceivably compatible with various systems, and adaptable to meet many needs.   This opens doors for many disabled people, not just autistic people.  And there are so many styles and models to choose from, something almost unheard of in assistive technology until recently.

For me, the iPad means more than just the latest gadget to show off to my friends (ironically, the reason my parents bought my first iPod when all I asked for was an mp3 player).   It is a device that helps me to organize my thoughts, to keep track of my schoolwork, to manage my stress levels, and to help me learn.  It does this in part by the apps it provides, and also by its design.  Yes, there are a lot of tablets out there, a lot of which are cheaper.  However, as I pointed out above, I know what works for me.  When I tested tablets, I found that the iPad was the only one with a big enough screen for me to work the most comfortably, that I could type easier and use the system more fluidly.  To most people, my difficulties with perception and motor skills is unnoticeable, but to me, it is a source of frustration.

Which is why being able to get an iPad means so much to me.  It will allow me an ease of access in the classroom that I never had before.  Each donation towards my iPad makes me wordlessly excited! I want to thank everyone, and I don't know how!!  Every little bit goes towards helping me give back to the communities.

So please, if you haven't already done so, make even a small donation, or help spread the word!  Every little bit helps! And if you have already done so, I thank you immensely. 


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