Mobile Phone: Repurposed Assistive Technology for Individuals with Disabilities

Mobile Phone: Repurposed Assistive Technology for Individuals with Disabilities

Emily C. Bouck, Andrea Jasper, Laura Bassette, Jordan Shurr
Copyright: © 2015 |Pages: 14
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-8239-9.ch114
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Mobile phones are a prime example of an everyday technology that can be repurposed to be an assistive technology for an individual with a disability. In-and-of-themselves as well as through their capabilities to host applications (apps), mobile phones enhance the independence of individuals with disabilities in multiple functional areas, including – but not limited to – daily living skills, communication, and navigation within one's community. This article provides readers with the current literature and considerations for using mobile phones as repurposed assistive technology for individuals with disabilities with a focus on mobiles phones for promoting independence, for use as a prompting device, and for use as an AAC device. This article stresses the lack of existing research base, but the potential of mobile phones to improve the lives of individuals with disabilities.
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Mobile phones are here to stay, including their use by children and adults. For example, recent surveys found the majority of US school-aged children possess their own mobile phone, and increasingly those mobile phones are smartphones (Banks 2008; Madden, Lenhart, Duggan, Cortesi, & Gasser, 2013; Rideout, Foehr, & Roberts, 2010). Internationally (e.g., the United Kingdom, Asia), the majority of school-aged children also possess their own mobile phone, including smart phones (mobiThinking, n.d.; Yapp, 2012). For most individuals, mobile phones are used for communication (e.g., text and voice), and increasingly to access the Internet (e.g., websites, email) and to run apps. However, for individuals with a disability mobile phones can be more; mobile phones can be repurposed to serve as assistive technology.

The idea of repurposing a technology to serve a function outside its original intention comes from the Technological Pedagogical and Content Knowledge (TPACK) framework by Punya Mishra and Matthew Koehler (2009). Mishra and Koehler (e.g., Kereluik, Mishra, & Koehler, 2011; Mishra & Koehler, 2007, 2009) argued the typical technologies used in education were not designed with education in mind. Rather, teachers repurposed technologies for educational purposes. In other words, educators – thinking outside of the box – re-imagined, reconfigured, and adapted typical technology to be useful in educational settings (Kereluik et al., 2011; Mishra & Koehler, 2007).

Technology can be repurposed to a specific type of educational technology – assistive technology (Blackhurst, 2005a, 2005b; Bouck, Flanagan, Miller, & Bassette, 2012; Bouck, Jasper, Bassette, Shurr, & Miller, 2013; Bouck, Shurr, Tom, Jasper, Bassette, Miller, & Flanagan, 2012). Assistive technology devices, according to federal law, are defined as, “any item, piece of equipment or product system, whether acquired commercially off the shelf, modified, or customized, that is used to increase, maintain, or improve the functional capabilities of a child with a disability” (IDEA, 2004, I.A.602.1). In other words, assistive technologies are tools that support individuals with disabilities in their functioning (e.g., academic and life). Given the rather ambiguous definition of assistive technology, these devices can run the spectrum – from low-tech (e.g., pencil grips, raised line paper) to medium- or mid-tech (e.g., calculators) to high-tech (e.g., speech-to-text and text-to-speech programs; Blackhurst, 1997; Edyburn, 2005; Johnson, Beard, & Carpenter, 2007; Vanderheiden, 1984). Assistive technology devices can also be classified along the lines of purposes, such as the seven suggested by Bryant and Bryant (2003): positioning, mobility, augmentative and alternative communication (AAC), computer access, adaptive toys and games, adaptive environments, and instructional aids.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Individuals with Disabilities: An individual with a disability recognized under federal laws, including the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act for children ages 0-21 and the American with Disabilities Act of Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act.

Prompts: Cues, stimuli, or events used to get students to engage in a desired behavior, and may come in the form of a picture, audio cue, gesture, video, or physical guidance.

Augmentative and Alternative Communication: Strategies and supports that augment or provide an alternative means of communication for individuals with difficulties in writing, speaking, or both.

Self-Operated Prompting Systems: Picture, audio, or video prompting systems that encourage an individual to be more independent.

Assistive Technology: Tools that support individuals with disabilities in their functioning.

Repurposing: Re-imagining, reconfiguring, and/or adapting typical technology to be useful in educational settings.

TPACK: A framework that focuses on technology integration in which technology matches with teacher’s pedagogical approach and his/her content as well as works within his/her content.

Sensory Disabilities: Individuals with a visual impairment, including blindness; hearing impairment, including deaf; and deaf-blind.

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