The iPad and mobile technology revolution

The iPad and mobile technology revolution: benefits and challenges for individuals who require augmentative and alternative communication


The iPad and other mobile technologies provide powerful new tools to potentially enhance communication for individuals with developmental disabilities, acquired neurogenic disorders, and degenerative neurological conditions.

Recent developments in mobile technology, including the introduction of the iPad and other smartphone and tablet devices, have provided important new tools for communication. The wide availability of these portable, powerful, networked technologies has changed how we work, learn, spend our leisure time, and interact socially. The impact has been rapid and widespread: Within 90 days of the release of the iPad, over 50% of Fortune 500 companies were using this technology; by 2012, Apple had sold over 2.5 million iPads to schools in the United States. Mobile technology use is now ubiquitous: Smartphone users spend over 4 hours a day using their devices; and teenagers send over 30 text messages a day. Although the iPhone and the iPad ™ garnered the most attention initially, there are now a wide variety of mobile technology devices, using iOS, Android, and Windows operating systems. Around the world, nearly three-quarters of the world’s population has access to mobile technology, and over 30 billion mobile applications (“apps”) were downloaded worldwide in 2011.

The mobile technology revolution has not only impacted the daily lives of individuals without disabilities, but also has had dramatic effects on the lives of many individuals with complex communication needs, including those with developmental disabilities (e.g., autism spectrum disorders, Down syndrome, cerebral palsy); those with acquired neurogenic disorders (e.g., resulting from stroke, traumatic brain injury); and those with degenerative neurological conditions (e.g., amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS; primary progressive

aphasia). These new mobile technologies are frequently smaller and cheaper than traditional augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) devices, and provide access to a wide range of mainstream smartphone applications (e.g., texting, browsing the internet, GPS navigation). In recent years, there has been an explosion of specialized software applications to support communication for those who require AAC.

The introduction of the iPad and other mobile technologies has offered many potential benefi ts to individuals with complex communication needs who require AAC, including increased awareness and social acceptance of AAC in the mainstream, greater consumer empowerment in accessing AAC solutions, increased adoption of AAC technologies, greater functionality and interconnectivity, and greater diffusion of AAC research and development

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