We use touchscreen devices on a daily basis in a wide variety of situations and applications. From banking machines to self-checkout scanners, the number of touchscreens in today’s society grows at an ever-increasing pace. Most of us even carry a touchscreen device of some sort with us, whether that’s a smartphone or a tablet (or maybe both).
But simple motions on touchscreen devices that we now take for granted — tapping, swiping, pinching — become immediate points of frustration for users with a motor disability.
Fortunately, in addition to modifying the device with accessories that can aid in accessibility, tablet devices have a wide variety of built-in features that can help reduce the impact of a motor impairment on device usage.
We’ve all been there … a slight movement while holding a tablet causes it to switch from portrait to landscape mode. It’s frustrating. It’s even more frustrating for someone who struggles to maintain any sort of steady motion. To avoid this frustration, the Microsoft Surface, iPad and Android devices have the ability to lock the screen into one mode.
On all three devices, this lock functionality can be found in Settings. Additionally, on an iPad, you can turn on the orientation lock by swiping up while in lock mode to reach the Control Center.
Both the Microsoft Surface and the iPad have the ability to control a good portion of the device by using voice control features. On the iPad, using Siri can allow a user to speak commands for searching online or adding tasks to calendars while dictation mode allows the user to speak whatever would typically be typed.
If on-screen buttons are too small, both the Surface and iPad allow for larger text and button sizes to assist. This increases the screen space for each button, helping to minimize the impact of inaccurate motion for the user.
On Android devices, CNET recommends BIG Launcher, an app that changes the user interface of the device, maximizing screen space by increasing the size of buttons. (http://www.cnet.com/how-to/how-to-make-android-more-accessible-for-disabled-users/)
If swiping or pinching is difficult, you can set your own gestures on an iPad through the AssistiveTouch feature, which is located in the Accessibility menu within Settings. By turning on AssistiveTouch, you can create a new custom gesture and assign a functionality to them. Because this is highly customizable to the individual, it can dramatically increase accessibility. (http://www.apple.com/accessibility/ios/#motor-skills)
The iPad also allows a parent, teacher, or therapist to limit the device to one particular app. This also is found in the Accessibility menu within Settings. It can be used to prevent an app from accidentally being closed by the user or to set time limits on usage. By doing this, any errant touch of the screen won’t interrupt the task being accomplished on the device. (http://www.apple.com/accessibility/ios/#motor-skills)
If light touch is an issue — and the user is able to grip a pencil or other writing utensil — a stylus may aid in reducing frustrations in tablet use. While a stylus isn’t necessarily a perfect solution for everyone, there are a number of stylus devices available that actually perform better with lighter touch.
Quest, a publication of the Muscular Dystrophy Association (MDA), recommends Stylus-R-Us, which essentially eliminates the need for any sort of downward pressure to function. (http://quest.mda.org/article/mobile-tech-tips-weak-hands)
The MDA also very strongly suggests something we are obviously quite passionate about — mounting a tablet device to make it more stable.
“The No. 1 thing people can do to improve hand control of a device is to look for a way to mount it firmly so it doesn’t have to be held at all,” California-based engineer RJ Cooper told Quest.
We couldn’t agree more.
Interested in TabletTable for yourself or a loved one? You can now pre-order your TabletTable through our Kickstarter Campaign at http://kck.st/1KojJwP. Your contribution to our fundraising campaign will make technology accessible to a child or adult with a movement disability.