A lot of ink--both physical and digital--has been invested in talking about the myriad ways that the Apple iPad will re-invent technology as we know it, or will be a tremendous flop not worthy of the hype, and everything in between. One function of the iPad, however, has been neglected--its uses for the disabled and how it can help businesses cut costs associated with employment law.
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) prohibits employers from discriminating against a qualified individual with a disability. The ADA defines this as "a person who meets legitimate skill, experience, education, or other requirements of an employment position that he or she holds or seeks, and who can perform the essential functions of the position with or without reasonable accommodation."
Those employees or candidates that have the requisite education and the appropriate skills deserve to be treated with fairness and respect. Unfortunately for businesses hiring employees with disabilities, complying with the ADA and providing the tools necessary to level the playing field for disabled employees can be exceptionally costly.
The legitimate business use of the iPad is debatable. It is seen as primarily a consumer gadget aimed at watching movies and surfing the Web on the go. However, surveys suggest that the number one reason people are investing in the new Apple tablet device is for its utility as a business tool.
The iPad probably won't replace desktops, or even notebooks, any time soon, but one area where its business value cannot be disputed is in providing a cost-effective and capable tool for disabled employees. The single-button hardware makes the device suitable even for sight-impaired users, and the intuitive multi-touch interface make it ideal as a replacement for much more expensive alternatives.
One person e-mailed me to comment on a previous iPad article where I asked readers specifically "If you are joining the iPad revolution--do you plan to use it for business or work functions as well, or strictly as a consumer media gadget?" The response was "I have an iPad on pre-order and intend to use it in a far different way than most of your other readers."
This person explained that she teaches disabled people to use computers and other such technical devices to help them get or keep jobs. She explained that the iPad represents a significant opportunity for her field, saying "The iPad has many accessibility features built-in. It is completely accessible to the blind user, and has magnification software for the low-vision user."
Businesses are forced to make significant investments in specialized hardware and software that assist disabled people and enable them to execute the same tasks and duties as their non-disabled coworkers. However, those devices can be exceptionally costly.
Traditional portable AAC (Augmentative and Alternative Communication) devices are large, heavy, have short battery life, and cost nearly $10,000. There are already existing iPhone apps that fill this need, and the larger iPad can leverage those apps, and provide a tremendous platform for future development of tools to aid the non-verbal.
Disabled employees can use Proloquo2Go, an AAC app available for $149, plus the $499 for the 16Gb Wi-Fi model iPad, rather than thousands on less-functional alternatives. The iPad also enables one-touch operation, making it useful even while walking or standing.
The iPad as an alternative to the very high-priced specialized tech options which are in use today. You might not want to replace your standard desktops with Apple iPads, but you should definitely explore the iPad as a potential solution for meeting the needs of disabled employees and complying with the ADA.