Being a support worker requires a certain level of problem-solving skills, quick-thinking, and creativity. Every day brings another challenge, as we try to support individuals in our care in a world that is not yet 100 percent accessible for all. What happens when the only wheelchair accessible route is closed for construction? What happens when an accessible communication device fails? We stop, we think, and then we come up with a solution to get through that moment. With technology becoming more and more prevalent in our daily activities, harnessing this creativity that we are already using has the potential to allow for new and inventive ways to support and enrich the lives of the individuals in our care.
Almost 1,500 apps are released daily through Apple’s App Store, yet only a fraction of these are designed specifically to support individuals with complex needs. With each iOS update, Apple has continued to add more robust built-in accessibility supports, such as voiceover and touch/display accommodations; however, it is up to the app developer to ensure that their app is compatible with the built-in iPad features. Unfortunately, many are not.
This is where creativity comes into play. Most apps have the ability to manipulate settings, and the degree to which you are able to do this varies between developers. Exploration and experimentation with these settings has the potential for discovering new ways to support individuals with technology already in our grasp. The Tap™ system, as seen in our featured tech review, is a perfect example of creativity at work.
This device was originally designed as a discrete one-handed keyboard, but has evolved to include gaming components, and a variety of other features. In the very simplest terms, the user wears a device on one hand and using a pre-set code, they are able to type messages by tapping their fingers in set formations which convert to text on a screen connected via Bluetooth. One of the newer updates has included a feature called, TapMapper, which is a web-based application that allows users to manipulate this code for their own individual needs.
While teaching a randomized code is not realistic for our clients, there are still ways we can use this device as an accessible communication tool. This is the moment, where we as support workers we need to stop, think, and then solve. The original code is not appropriate for our users, but we do support many individuals who already use gestural and non-verbal communication. What if there was a code designed around the American Sign Language alphabet?
With this in mind, TapMapper has allowed us to design code for the ASL alphabet in less than 30 minutes. Exploration, experimentation, and a little creativity can go a long way in finding accessible alternatives in a world that hasn’t quite caught up.
To put this into perspective: this is only one app. Consider the potential among the two million apps currently available in the App Store. We are not reinventing the wheel here, we are just finding different ways to use it.