Tablets Are Game-Changers For Special Needs Kids
I see the problem a bit differently.
The problem is that the market for assistive devices is so used to insurance paying for everything that they've clung to 100% custom solutions that, while operational, don't have to play by any rules of competition or scale.
My son had an $8K system for a while that was based off a Transmeta processor and had a touch screen, built-in CD-ROM, telephone interface, and IR remote. It was also 10 pounds. Baked into the price was about $1200 in software that allowed for the building of pages consisting of graphics tiles that could be read aloud via speech synthesis. Yep, $1200 for the modern equivalent of HyperCard.
There is nothing stopping a person from grabbing an iPad and loading it with the accessibility apps that are pertinent to them (including an app for a tile based speech system - it's already there in the app store). $500 for the iPad. $30 max for the accessibility software. Of course, that will all be an out of pocket expense, but a person will have the cheaper solution instantly rather than go through half a year of Medicare/Medicaid approvals.
One downside of the iPad, though, is that it isn't as compatible with the classroom as a Windows netbook. My son's school loads their software onto his netbook so he can interface with it via touchscreen. That's not possible with the iPad.
Tablets Are Game-Changers For Special Needs Kids
I have a son about to turn 2 who knows all that stuff sans iPad/iPhone. He also sings songs, can identify Chewbacca, and comes running like a madman when I whistle the theme from "Shaun the Sheep".
Then there's my other son who is 8 who has cerebral palsy and for years used a medically approved $8000 computer as a communication device. When it crapped out, I decided a netbook would be just fine. Total cost: $350.
We've looked at an iPad for him and might eventually go for one, but his netbook is working well at the moment.
Giving the Blind Better Web Access
Didn't we already have these discussions a month ago?
There are four camps here:
1. Accessibility will totally fuck with my Web x.0 experience
2. Accessibility will cost me money
3. Accessibility is easy, why not do it?
4. Accessibility is a necessity.
Camps 3 and 4 form an alliance and try to convince camps 1 and 2 that they're bellyaching over nothing. Camps 1 and 2 ally and talk about how small businesses will be sued out of existence.
And the unspoken camp 5, the people that require the accessibility, sit by and hope that people don't shut them out of the conversation by making the means inaccessible.
Can NetBooks & Tablets Co-Exist?
I recently toyed with an iPad to see if I could use it for quickly publishing articles with photos during an upcoming event. Using a DSLR and the camera connection kit (what we call in netbook/PC parlance an "SD slot"), I was able to get the photos onto the iPad.
But when I was in my CMS editing the articles, I tried to upload my photos. Couldn't. All the "browse" buttons in my CMS interface for selecting files for upload were disabled. Turns out that iPad's Safari implementation just turns that off with no way around it.
So... to use the iPad in the manner I wanted, I would have to:
1. Transfer all photos from SD card to iPad photo albums
2. Launch an app to store photos somewhere other than my web server
3. Launch a browser to create the article
4. Launch a second browser window to get cross-site image references from 3rd party photo hosting service
Or I could go buy a netbook and do everything in one app (a browser), without an extra kit, no interim transfer stage, and reduce it to:
1. Launch a browser to create article and upload images from SD card directly into it.
Why they couldn't enable HTTP uploads from photo albums is beyond me.
3 Drinks a Day Keeps the Doctor Away
Honestly, the only time I feel stress about being a tightwad teetotaler is when people offer to buy me a drink or try to hand me a beer and then express shock that I'm alcohol averse.
But then, I masturbate a lot, so maybe I just relieve stress in other ways.
Dept. of Justice Considers Web For ADA
Those are interesting questions.
When my son was first born, diagnosed, operated upon, and signed up for every service imaginable, I questioned whether or not his life was worth the drain not only upon the finances of the state but also upon the lives of those who would support him.
For the longest time, I did not see his survival as a decision that made any sense. It seemed to me it would have been better to let him expire naturally via aspiration (he is unable to swallow) than to perpetuate his imposition upon society.
Part of this was due to my belief at the time that his inability to fully function physically was an indicator that he would be similarly cognitively dysfunctional.
Over the years, that has proven to not be the case. He has, in fact, proven to be extremely intelligent, but getting to that point required his survival and the intervention of several people.
Let me add at this point that intervention is a key word. When a family accepts support from government, all illusions of privacy disappear. We have had night nurses in our home for eight years now to provide care in order that my wife and I might remain productive, tax generating members of society. I do not, however, believe the people are getting a fair deal in this. Neither my wife nor I generate enough monthly income to offset my son's collateral expenses.
So how much government compulsion is acceptable?
For the most part, the government's compulsion in regards to my son is financial. The government compels each working citizen to hand over some amount of money and distributes it to a variety of programs, including medical coverage and education. I am unable to, on my own, provide an educational setting with peer interaction, payment for occupational, physical, and speech therapists, equipment acquisition and maintenance costs, and attendant nurses while at school.
What I can and do provide are the things most parents do: food; shelter; support; transport; clothing; activities/experiences; love; guidance.
But why government? Why does government provide so much for my son? And what would I do without those provisions?
First, private insurance knows what the bottom line is: profitability. As such, they cover what they feel is adequate given a diagnosis, but they often provide less than minimum. For example, private insurance will pay for durable equipment (like a suction machine), but does not pay for the supplies required for its use, supplies that need to be refreshed every month. Our state government covers that as a result. Private insurance will not pay for nurses, but without them, he is not able to attend school. Again, state government (the taxpayers) pick up the tab.
I'm not thrilled with the situation at all. But, I'm also glad the option is there.
Second, government has put into place requirements for individual educational support for kids with "special needs" (a warm way of saying disabilities). It is through this system that the need for educational therapeutic support is determined and assigned (physical, occupation, and speech therapists). In my son's case, that support has resulted in his ability to communicate his own thoughts to us, so they are invaluable to me, but probably of little value to the majority of taxpayers.
In the things that I can provide, the government compulsion of facilities access has been key. Mandates for ramps, lifts, elevators, even bathroom stalls, have allowed my son to explore new places and new ideas, furthering his intellectual development (again, hard to quantify the dollar value for the state).
However, beyond access, I've never made a demand of an establishment or considered suing anyone. This is not true for all families with a disabled child. I know many who see litigation as a fast track to wealth.
Is there a limit to the level of compulsion? Aren't there in all things? The ADA is about giving people with disabilities the chance to try, but it needn't go to ridiculous extremes (and here I realize that "ridiculous" is purely a subjective measure). Should a person with a severe intellectual disability be able to wield the force of law to put them on a team of nuclear physicists? No. But should that same person be summarily excluded from a position that he/she could adequately fulfill based solely upon the fact they are disabled? The logical side of me says, "Sure, why not? It's up to the employer." The humanistic side of me says, "But then they might never find a sense of accomplishment or pride."
Though it isn't the role of government to make anyone proud.
Moral basis. That's a tough one.
I've inadvertently traded on the collective morality of others with my son since his birth. Their sense of right and wrong, compassion and redemption have built a system in which it is precious to save every child we can. The government pays families to take in disabled children in order to avoid the extra cost of having them be wards of the state. My own state pays towards private health insurance for children on medical assistance so that parents with private, employer provided insurance keep their kids on their policy. And there's no way to refuse the money aside from not cashing the check (I've tried).
I suppose we would need to look at the aggregate contributions of the ADA emboldened disabled citizenry to know whether or not government mandated sympathy has been effective. But perhaps it really is just a facet of the pursuit of life, liberty, and happiness. The inability to access what would otherwise be a majority of establishments could be considered an impediment to the pursuit of all three. Is the liberty of the restaurant owner to not install a ramp greater than the liberty of the patron to access the service? Is my son's happiness worth the unhappiness of taxpayers who might not find value in the expense of his continued existence?
To me it is. I get to spend time with him each day, encouraging him to learn and grow without worrying if he'll make it to the next day. In that respect, perhaps your "I got mine" is more apt than I first thought.
I got my kid. And we can go anywhere I can take him. And millions of other people have the same opportunities. To do so, we draw from the collective in the form of government support. For what? For human life. For the ability to not be fully excluded just because of a disability.
Where does it end? It ends with opportunity. Government should support our opportunity to succeed, to participate. It should not guarantee what happens once the opportunity presents itself.
There is no guarantee that my son will have a fulfilling life, but there's no need to stop him at the curb before he gets a chance to find out.
Dept. of Justice Considers Web For ADA
Wow, that was an awful translation.
I don't like my subsidy at all, really. I would ideally like to be entirely self-sufficient and provide everything my child needs to survive and thrive. The truth of the matter is that such is not possible.
Whenever I can, I find ways to handle his needs outside the system in order to reduce our dependence (for example, buying a $500 netbook out of pocket instead of having medical assistance buy the $8000 "medically approved" assistive communication device).
But I can't afford to install a wheelchair lift in a public school, so I'm glad the ADA makes that happen. I can't afford or compel a concert hall to provide wheelchair accessible seating, so I'm glad the ADA does that so my kid can see a performance. I can't make Slashdot comments be accessible, but maybe, one day, the ADA will help do that so my son can come in here and call you a dipshit himself.