Better Apple Accessibility

Posted Tuesday June 19, 2012 by Melissa

If you have a child with MPS or other special needs, you likely either have an iPad, want an iPad, or broke an iPad. The world that this device has opened up for many children with disabilities has caused many a tear in this and other parents’ eyes.

But Apple isn’t always perfect.

If you’ve read some of my earlier posts, you may know that I have a bone or two to pick with Apple’s accessibility features.

  • First, Apple did not have the means to lock a child into an app.
  • Second, Apple did not offer the means to lock a child out of an app.

But with iOS 6.0 being released this fall, I am hoping we’re on our way to seeing more customization possibilities for children of all abilities who use iOS devices.

Locking INTO an App. So many children with autism, OCD, and other conditions involving repetitive behaviors (including forms of MPS) are using iPads and these children naturally gravitate toward that home button, allowing them to exit the app you’ve so diligently set up for them in the blink of an eye. Tap, tap, tap. Even children without disabilities like the feel of that grooved button and the swoop! visual of the app closing (and the benefit of getting to enter an app that they really want to play on).

So although in theory one could sit right next to their child and make sure he or she kept working on what the parent, teacher, or therapist wanted, even that can allow repetitive battles and wasted energy over that pesky home button.

That reason alone was the basis for me jailbreaking Case’s iPad to allow for the Cydia free tweak IncarcerApp. Now I could put Case in a puzzle app or Teach Me Toddler without him immediately trying to look at pictures or watch a video. IncarcerApp also lets you designate those apps where the entire screen is disabled, like say, wanting to let your child watch videos, Netflix, etc. without being able to fast forward to the end.

Apple Responds with iOS 6.0. So Apple has now realized how important this is to parents of children with disabilities (and frankly, really any parent who wants to be able to let their child watch a video or play a game without the worry that they’ll be texting, taking pictures, posting to Facebook, or calling China). iOS 6.0 will be released this fall with a feature called Guided Access that sounds eerily similar to IncarcerApp. Even cooler, however, is that it seems to allow you to tweak it for each app by drawing around the area of the screen that needs to be disabled, such as buttons, ads, etc.

Locking OUT OF an App. Jailbroken devices like Case’s iPad also often feature Lockdown Pro as the best means to place a passcode on apps or entire folders. This has become especially important for us lately as Case has become more and more curious of those really cool looking adult apps like Facebook, Dropbox, and of course my Starbucks “make sure I have enough money for my coffee” app.

No Apple Response Yet. Although the iPad allows you to restrict access to certain Apple-installed apps such as Safari, the App Store, and others, it has not yet offered a means to passcode other apps or folders. Hopefully as Apple becomes more familiar with what families and especially families of those with disabilities need, they will incorporate this into the iOS.

Verdict

When I saw what is billed as being similar to the incarcer capability, it did cross my mind to restore Case’s iPad to the new 6.0 iOS when it releases. But I can’t yet let go of the protection that Lockdown Pro provides. Despite the new features that iOS 5.0 offered and iOS 6.0 purports to offer, it is still not worth it. Hopefully, Apple will continue to hear our voice and incorporate pan-app lockdown features as well.

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One Response to “Better Apple Accessibility”

  1. Did you get this info from my FB post? If not, I will send you the link.