Researchers Look To Make iPads More Accessible

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A new device could make it possible for kids with motor skills difficulties to utilize iPads and other touch-screen technologies.

Though tablets are often hyped as beneficial for kids with disabilities, touch screens present a unique hurdle for those with motor impairments. Now a team of engineers at Georgia Tech has developed a sensor-based device to allow people with disabilities to control tablets even if they can’t make a pinching or swiping motion with their fingers.

The wireless tool known as Access4Kids enables a tablet or smartphone to respond to various physical movements. The device can be worn on a person’s forearm or positioned on the arm of a wheelchair so that the user can touch or swipe the sensors with their fist.

“Every child wants access to tablet technology. So to say, ‘No you can’t use it because you have a physical limitation’ is totally unfair,” said Ayanna Howard, a professor of electrical and computer engineering at Georgia Tech who has led development of the tool. “We’re giving them the ability to use what’s in their mind so they have an outlet to impact the world.”

Developers are currently working on additional designs so that the device can be controlled by movements from a user’s foot or head, for example. A version for adults called TabAccess is also in the works.

Clinical trials are planned soon and the device could be commercially available for use with Android devices in a year, with a version for Apple products to follow.

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