Tablets are the curious, in-between, middle ground of computing technology. Papa Bear can be the desktop or laptop–Too hot! Mama Bear can be the smart phone–Too cold! Our protagonist, Baby Bear is that ‘just right’ tablet. Tablets are a wonderful compromise of size, portability, and power; and as a result tablet ownership, especially in education, has never been more popular. They are becoming a classroom accommodation that offers learning potential not just in school, but as learning tools at home.
A Pew Research Center study conducted in October 2013 computed that the number of Americans ages 16 and older who own tablet computers has grown to 35%. Overall, roughly 110,000,000 currently own a tablet in America–a number that is larger than the percentage of the same American population who tuned in for Super Bowl last year in 2013.
Since nearly 20% of Americans, or almost 60 million people, identify as having a disability. Of that number, 2.8 million are students. Within a growing number of Americans utilizing a tablet, people, and specifically young students, with disabilities cannot be overlooked.
Seemingly a flat device with limited tactile features, the sheer appearance screams inaccessibility. Some folks ask in curiosity—if a student can’t see or feel a tablet, how could they use it?
The features that our tablets possess are evolving quickly. Yet, the definition of a tablet has not, so when it is stripped down to its essentials, we are left with a handheld, touchscreen device. Within this identity, some might argue that certain accessibility features are one part of the bigger design. However, I respectfully disagree: accessibility is the design. Tablets are only as good as their ability to be used.
I set out on a journey of my own—to personally use features that enable access by students with disabilities. Turns out, I had a couple of things to learn myself!
(Read more in part 2 next month)