Slope unboxing

blogEntryThumbnailAfter a long wait, I finally received the Slope, an iPad stand that I purchased on Kickstarter. In the following video, I captured my wife, Kelly, unboxing the Slope for use with an iPad. My hope is that you’ll have some laughs as you learn a little about this cool, new iPad stand.


GoNow case review

blogEntryThumbnailI just received the GoNow case for iPad, made by Attainment Company, Inc. Below is information and a review of the product:

GoNow Case
  • Description - Lightweight, plastic constructed case with one handle, foam insert, and sound amplification.
  • Price - $59.00
  • Colors - Silver only (as far as I know)
  • Population - Children with special needs
  • Pros - Sleek design, fits device snugly, lightweight, portable, and non-skid pads
  • Cons - iPad must be secured in the case with screws, which limits the ability to easily move the iPad in and out of the case.
GoNow case
The GoNow case has an attractive, sleek design. External controls on the iPad are easily accessible with it inside the case. The GoNow case can easily fit into a bag or backpack for portability. It is made of lightweight plastic with a foam pad on the inside to act as a shock absorber. While Attainment Company, Inc. says in their promotional literature that the case “will help protect your iPad, it is not guaranteed to prevent damage.” I found from my use that the iPad seemed adequately protected, though not as well-protected as with cases made of EVA foam that I have used.

The GoNow case has a few unique features that may be appealing for some clientele. There’s an acoustic sound channel built into the case to amplify the sound of the iPad without using batteries. For a practitioner working in a noisy environment, this is a great feature. In my trials with the device, I noticed the amplified sound mostly when the iPad was at maximum volume. The difference in loudness seemed minimal when using the iPad in the case at 50% volume. The case also features a magnetic lock/unlock switch which allows the user to bypass the unlock screen on the device. While this is a useful feature, I had an issue with the magnet coming loose from the case when I removed the iPad. The switch could also pose a problem for students with sensory issues who may play with it. The case has a handle to help when transporting the device either in a classroom or from class to class, and non-skid pads which help the case to stay in place while in use. Additionally, there’s at least one hole for attaching a lanyard to the case if a student needs the case anchored around his/her neck.

For me, the GoNow case had one major drawback. I was really hoping that I could just slide the iPad in the case. In reading the product information, I saw that a small Phillips screwdriver is necessary to insert the iPad. This is unfortunate. I wish there was a way that I could quickly and easily put the iPad in the case without any tools. As a professional on-the-go who regularly needs to remove the iPad in order to use it with children requiring various solutions, the GoNow case poses some difficulty. In my opinion, the GoNow case is more useful for children - especially children with special needs who don’t need to remove the iPad from the protective case.

Overall, the GoNow case has some nice features that could work successfully for children with special needs. Unfortunately, it has limited use for me since I need to be able to easily move my iPad in and out of different cases when using a variety of products to work with children.

Disclosure: I received a complimentary case from Attainment Company, Inc.

Gripcase review

blogEntryThumbnailRecently, I received an iPad mini case and stand from Gripcase USA. Below is information and a review of each product:

  • Description - Lightweight, foam constructed case with four handles that are soft and bendable.
    Price - $34.99
    Colors - Black, red, blue, purple, green
    Population - Children (with special needs), but could be expanded to more populations.
    Pros - Durable construction, sleek design, fits device snugly, lightweight
    Cons - Handles could be sturdier, but Gripcase suggests that the case bends without breaking.
small case

From my experience in using the Gripcase USA case, it appears to be very durable and well-designed. It is constructed of a lightweight, soft, bendable EVA foam that is shock absorbent, non-abrasive, and bacteria resistant. I physically dropped the case with the iPad mini inside on both hard and carpeted surfaces. The result was a bouncing effect in which the case bounced on the rounded corners before landing flat on the ground; the iPad mini remained fully intact and unaffected. This is an important consideration for any product used with children and this case seems to pass the test. The lightweight, sleek design also makes the case easy to store in a child’s backpack without adding extra bulk.

Gripcase USA ensures, through construction and manufacturing, that the case is highly durable if soiled, placed in the sun or in the event bacteria forms on the apparatus. The bacteria resistant, washable material is definitely an advantage when working with children and adults with special needs, especially, if multiple individuals are using the device. Plus, the spongy construction may provide sensory stimulation for some users.

  • Description - Lightweight, hard plastic stand compatible with iPad and iPad mini Gripcase.
    Price - $19.99
    Colors - Black only
    Population - Professionals, parents, and children (with special needs)
    Pros - Durable construction, versatile design, compact size, and non-abrasive on surfaces
    Cons - Stand could benefit from suction cups to hold it in place on a surface. A locking mechanism for holding the case in place on the stand would also be a nice feature.
small stand

Upon testing the stand, I found it to be a great addition to the case. The stand is very lightweight and non-abrasive, so it can be moved around without fear of scratching any surface. The stand is very versatile as it can easily hold an iPad mini (in portrait or landscape orientation) or iPhone/iPod touch (in portrait orientation). In my experience with the product, the iPhone did not fall out of the stand. While the iPad mini was also very secure in the stand when it was stationary, I think a great additional feature would be a locking mechanism on the stand to hold the iPad mini in place. The stand is beneficial when you want to prop up the iPad in the event it cannot be held or during instruction when you want to be hands free.

All in all, I was very pleased with the use of both the Gripcase USA case and stand, and I would highly recommend the products, especially if you are a practitioner working with children with special needs or a parent of a child with special needs.

Disclosure: I received a complimentary case and stand from Gripcase USA.

Typing test with iKeyboard

In the embedded video, I did an iPad typing test with the iKeyboard, an accessory designed for touch typing. I wanted to see how my speed and accuracy of typing with the iPad on-screen keyboard compared with that of the iKeyboard. So, I used the TapTyping app to do a speed test of typing on my iPad.

The results indicated that my typing accuracy was equivalent for the on-screen keyboard and iKeyboard, but my typing speed was 11 WPM slower with the iKeyboard. I think the slower typing rate with iKeyboard is due to me needing to get used to it, plus the plastic that covers the letter keys. The plastic is relatively rigid which requires hard presses that could slow down typing speed. If the plastic can be manufactured to be more flexible, I believe my typing speed would have increased. With that said, I think iKeyboard is a good step toward touch typing on the iPad.

Disclosure: The author was provided with a complimentary iKeyboard.

Lasered Pics keyguards

blogEntryThumbnailLasered Pics is a company that specializes in creating keyguards for iPad AAC apps. The keyguards can be especially helpful for individuals with physical disabilities who demonstrate unintentional mis-hits during augmentative communication. Lasered Pics offers keyguards for several iPad AAC apps including Proloquo2Go, TouchChat, Tap Speak Choice, Sono Flex, Assistive Chat, Grace - Picture Exchange, MyTalk Tools Mobile, My First AAC, and many others. A majority of the keyguards are made of clear acrylic, and they have suction cups to attach to the iPad screen for given apps.

Lasered Pics provided me with a Proloquo2Go keyguard (retail price: $19.95) for the medium item size in landscape orientation. I’m intentionally mentioning the specifications because customers choose the item size, landscape orientation and other options when ordering on the Lasered Pics website. The company states that it’s important to choose the appropriate options when ordering a keyguard, otherwise there will be a delay in the ordering process. I’d like to add that choosing the appropriate options is also important for the user’s experience. If the keyguard specifications aren’t appropriate, physical access to the AAC app can be hindered rather than facilitated.

I personally tested the Lasered Pics keyguard designed for the latest 1.7 version of Proloquo2Go. Using the default factory settings in the app, I attached the keyguard to align with the medium sized buttons in landscape orientation. It was easy to achieve a firm suction to the device via the four suction cups. Plus, I liked how the home button on the device was covered by the keyguard, which is especially helpful to keep users from “accidentally” exiting the app. When accessing the items, I was easily able to tap them via the cutouts in addition to scrolling pages when necessary. I was also able to rest my hand on the keyguard and then touch an item, similar to the access manner of many users with physical disabilities. One thing I realized during testing was that it’s very important to accurately align the keyguard with the app’s buttons. At first I didn’t, so it made access much more difficult.

All in all, I liked the Lasered Pics keyguard because it’s a well made product and it’s very intuitive to use. There’s really no instructions necessary to use the keyguard. As I mentioned before, it’s just important to have an accurate alignment between the cutouts and the app button. If you want to learn more about the Lasered Pics keyguards, please visit the website.

BubCap home button covers

I want to share the BubCap home button covers for iOS devices. A BubCap is like a rigid sticker that is placed over the home button so children (especially children with sensory needs) cannot accidentally exit an app. Although the BubCap protects the home button from children, adults are still able to press it for navigational purposes–though, my wife seemed to have a hard time with this.

The BubCap cover comes in a pack with three different rigidities based on the child’s age and the type of iOS device used. The company suggests that the regular BubCap is for toddlers with iPhone and iPod touch; the BubCap Ultra is for toddlers with iPad or older children with iPhone and iPod touch; finally, the BubCap Max is for older children with iPad. However, my preference is to use the BubCap Ultra on any iOS device. The BubCap Max feels too rigid even for an adult to press.

The BubCap works by peeling off the backing and then placing it on top of your iOS device home button. Once the BubCap has been adhered, let it sit for about 15 minutes before use. Then, you’re ready to go. When you no longer need the BubCap, you can peel it off with you fingernail (applying slow steady pressure) and dispose of it or save it for future use.

As the company website says, BubCaps make a great stocking stuffer and they start at $5 for a 4-pack. BubCaps are well made and a good solution to help children stay within an app.

Disclosure: The author was provided with a complimentary 6-pack of BubCaps for demonstration purposes.

Blue2 Bluetooth Switch by AbleNet

blogEntryThumbnailSince I recently posted about an iPad accessory for physical access, I would like to share another one. I want to discuss the AbleNet Bluetooth switch called Blue2, which provides single or dual switch access to the iPad for individuals with physical disabilities. The Blue2 has a switch interface and two switches built in the same device. The built-in switches are accessible by your hands or feet. You can also plug additional switches in the available right and left ports if you wish to use your own.

Since the switch is Bluetooth enabled, no cords are required for use. You connect and use it wirelessly beginning with the iPad settings. Here are the following steps for setup:
  1. With 2 AA batteries in the device, slide the Power switch to ON
  2. Press and hold the Reset button on the rear part of the device until the red light cycles
  3. On the iPad, open the Settings app, tap General then Bluetooth. Turn Bluetooth ON.
  4. In Bluetooth Settings, choose Dual Pedal to connect it
  5. On the switch, enter in the four digit code using the Mode buttons (note that digits 6-0 require the Shift button plus the Mode button)
  6. Press Enter and you will see the red light flash next to the 1/6 mode button
  7. Finally, press the 5/0 mode button for the Space/Enter function and you will see the red light flash next to it
After the Blue2 switch is connected to the iPad via Bluetooth, you can use it with switch compatible apps. At this moment in time, there are a select number of apps that are compatible, and they are mostly for augmentative communication. The switch compatible apps (that I’m aware of) include the TapSpeak series (Button, Sequence, Choice), Predictable, SoundingBoard (iPhone only), GoTalk Now, Alexicomm AAC, and RJ Cooper apps.

My personal experience with the Blue2 switch has been mostly with the TapSpeak series of apps. At conferences, I have focused on demonstrating the switch with TapSpeak Choice. I used the First page sample board in TapSpeak Choice and began with configuring the in app Settings (the gears button). I selected Scanning Settings and 2 Switch Step scanning. After that, I exited the in app Settings and constructed a message (e.g., “I like dog”) using 2 switch access. In order to construct the message, I had to press the left switch to scan by rows and the right switch to choose a given row or item. Finally, I was able to select the message window to speak the entire message.

There are known limitations at this current time for iPad switch access. First, as I mentioned previously, there are only a select number of switch compatible apps. Second, you cannot use the on-screen keyboard while a switch is connected via Bluetooth. Also, with TapSpeak Choice, you can only utilize one type of access at a time. For example, when 2 Switch step access is enabled, Direct Select touch access is disabled.

Although I discussed Blue2 use with an iPad, it can also be used with switch compatible apps on iPhone and iPod touch. To purchase the Blue2 switch, visit the AbleNet online store. It’s $149.

Disclosure: The author was provided with a complimentary Blue2 switch for demonstration purposes.

Beyond Adaptive iPad Arm Kit

blogEntryThumbnailI would like to share an iPad Arm Kit from a company called Beyond Adaptive. The kit provides an excellent iPad mount for individuals with physical disabilities – even though it can be used by anyone. If someone with a motor impairment (such as an individual with cerebral palsy) wants to access an iPad, the arm kit is a great solution for keeping the device in a stable position.

The kit works by fastening the quick action clamp to an object (e.g., a table), tightening another knob, and placing an iPad (original iPad or iPad 2) in the cradle. As simple as it sounds, it’s that easy to setup.

Since receiving the Beyond Adaptive iPad Arm Kit almost two months ago, I have demonstrated it during various workshops as a high-quality solution for physical access to iPad. When firmly clamped, the kit enables a very sturdy position for the iPad, regardless of where it’s mounted. I attached it to podiums, tabletops, and table legs without any worries of my iPad falling and breaking. I also attached it to wheelchair tray tables for my students with physical disabilities who successfully accessed the iPad independently. It didn’t matter where I clamped the kit or how much pressure was applied to the iPad, the device remained steady. The Beyond Adaptive iPad Arm Kit is wonderful and I highly recommend it for individuals with the need.

The kit pictured above is the Deluxe iPad Arm Kit. The regular price is over $400, but the company is running a special of $351 until the end of 2011. Contact the company for more information and purchasing details.

Disclosure: The author was provided with a complimentary iPad Arm Kit for demonstration purposes.