By: Kevin Chan

A version of this article was published in the Richmond News.

There are always concerns around the overuse of technology and its impact on social interaction. However, the Developmental Disabilities Association’s (DDA) use of assistive technology has empowered individuals with developmental disabilities to improve their ability to communicate.

In January, Keegan, an Assistant Director at DDA, reviewed the Tap Wearable Keyboard produced by Tap Systems Inc., a wearable technology company in California.

After writing the review, she reached out to the company, thinking that there was an opportunity to expand on its current capabilities. Tap Systems Inc. was quick to respond and since then, she has been working with the company and providing feedback that can be used to increase the accessible component of the product.

“I stumbled across Tap while searching for assistive writing technology, particularly ones that suit individuals with various needs,” explained Keegan. “Some individuals cannot type on a standard keyboard and require low-impact alternatives that reduce physical strain on any one part of the body.”

This partnership has also allowed Keegan to receive several  additional devices that can be used to enhance communication between clients and staff at DDA’s community-based group homes. Though the assistive technology is still a work in progress, results have been positive. Individuals who previously had challenges communicating whether speaking or writing have been able to use the wearable keyboard as an alternative input device to tap a series of patterns that can communicate anything from ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to food preferences and image recognition.

Aside from DDA’s implementation of new communication methods, Keegan and DDA are also able to share findings back to Tap Systems Inc. The hope is that providing these findings will open the eyes of wearable tech and app companies to a larger audience that includes individuals with developmental disabilities.

“Assistive technology is more than providing tools for communication,” Keegan says. “It is giving back autonomy, independence, and a voice. It provides access and the ability to build relationships within a community.”

Posted by dda-editor in: News