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iPad as an Assistive Device for RA?

Posted Jun 04 2010 9:10pm

A confession is appropriate – I’m a tech junkie. Ever since acquiring an Apple IIe computer in the 1980s, the addiction was cemented. While there were a few bad years for Apple when they fired Steve Jobs, his return brought an amazing period of technology innovations including iPods, iTunes (the largest seller of music), new generation Macs, iPhones, and now iPads. Apple just became the largest tech company in the world surpassing Microsoft and is now the 2nd largest company in the world behind…Exxon/Mobile. Pixar studios (think Toy Story, etc.) is also the brainchild of Steve Jobs. Think what you want about Apple or technology in general, but the world is rapidly changing because of these innovations.

Technology is a key part of my professional and personal life. I can’t live without it. Since RA crept into my life, using computer keyboards and mice is becoming increasingly difficult due to joint stiffness, pain, and joint deformity. Several of my fingers are showing the telltale signs of bending away as joint damage occurs. If I spend too much time typing and manipulating the mouse, my fingers get stiff and painful. This led to investigating Dragon Naturally Speaking speech recognition software. My Human Resources department requested a detailed note from my rheumatologist before they would purchase the software for me.

A friend at work, a real tech junkie, recently acquired an iPad and has been advocating for them. This week, I walked into the local Apple store and asked if they had any iPads in stock. Timing is everything…it was the first day they had some in stock and available without a reservation (Apple sold 2 million iPads in 2 months!). Fifteen minutes later I was out the door with one in hand. My primary goal is professional…I plan to develop some iPad applications for use in teaching and learning environments. But I also wanted to determine if it would provide easier use of technology given my RA symptoms.

After a few days, here is my appraisal…

  • It provides much easier surfing and navigation. A simple touch of the screen allows you to move pages and minimize and maximize with ease. There is no mouse strain on the fingers with the iPad!
  • There is less stress on finger joints typing on the keypad since it is a touch pad. But that will take some time getting used to.
  • There is a free WordPress blogging application for the iPad. Most of this post was written with this app. Final edits were made on my regular computer before publishing. This allows me to compose thoughts for blogs anyplace and anytime.
  • Dragon Dictation is a free application available for the iPad. The application converts speech to text. Below is a note recorded in Dragon Dictation using the iPad…

This is my first try at dragon dictation. My goal is to learn how to use dragons but don’t have to type using the keyboard and a mouse. I guess it’s good take some practice to learn how to use Dragon. But I know there are people with RA to use Dragon a lot.

So my first foray into Dragon wasn’t perfect. But with practice, it may serve as a useful tool.

Who knows what the future holds. But technologies like the iPad may provide technology assistance for those with physical disabilities.

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