Britney is a 27-year-old young woman from Southeastern Massachusetts who is legally blind and hearing impaired. Britney was first registered with Massachusetts Commission for the Blind (MCB) in 1986 when she was five months old. She is unable to walk or talk, and is dependent for all of her basic needs. Britney was given an Apple iPad by MCB in the fall of 2012. Since receiving the iPad, Britney has been given the opportunity to experience independence and communication in entirely new ways.
Prior to obtaining the iPad, Britney relied on the use of a communication device — which when she pointed to a picture, the machine would speak the demand. The initial purpose of the iPad was to act as a temporary replacement while the communication device was sent for repair, which at times could take months. Britney’s shared living provider Rachel Bancroft of Adult Family Care Program at Nonotuck Resource Associates and her day program staff at HMEA/ Day Habilitation Services have been teaching her additional uses for the iPad. Now, she relies more on the iPad than the original device, as it offers many more functions. For example, every night before bed, Britney looks up the weather online, so she can choose her outfit for the next day.
Her ability to communicate and socialize with family and friends is the greatest improvement seen by her caretakers and family. Britney is non-verbal and hearing impaired, so she is not able to use a standard telephone. The iPad has allowed Britney to Skype with friends and family. Since she doesn’t live with her mother, Britney often misses her, but now she is able to call her via FaceTime. Britney dials her mother on her own and is able to see her and communicate with her. She jumps up and down in her chair and laughs the entire time they talk. She rarely cries about missing her mother anymore. Using the iPad as a communication device has greatly improved Britney’s quality of life.
Britney’s communication and vocabulary skills have increased immensely as a result of using this new technology. While she does have some American Sign Language (ASL) skills, due to her dwarfism and small hands/fingers, she had difficulty forming exact signs. Originally, her caretakers would sign to her and she would answer via the original communication device. Now through Skype/FaceTime/Texting/Email and other communication apps, Britney has multiple ways to communicate her needs!
The iPad has provided Britney with more social independence, whereas before, she had little control over her environment and entertainment choices. Britney has the type of agreeable personality that makes it appear that she is satisfied with any choice being made for her. However, now, through the use of her iPad, she has shown her shared living provider that she has strong opinions and preferences. At last, Britney can control how she prefers to spend her downtime, instead of someone else choosing and her acquiescing. For example, Britney loves music and is now able to independently choose songs that she prefers using an online radio app on her iPad. She also has a Netflix account that has allowed her to select and enjoy favorite television shows and movies easier. Another example, since Britney is unable to turn her head to look at what is behind her or to the side of her, she uses the internal camera on the iPad to view her surroundings. She also takes photographs of her friends.
These are only a few examples of how Britney's life has improved since receiving an iPad. Britney’s counselor, MCB’s Gene Hoy, said, “Technology has certainly improved the quality of this young woman's life.” Britney's shared living provider Rachel Bancroft recently said, “I would like to personally express my gratitude for this gift. You have improved Britney’s life by providing this for her.”
A partnership between the Massachusetts Commission for the Blind (MCB) and the Department of Developmental Services (DDS) has offered in-service training sessions to day and residential program staff on the use of iPads and the various apps available for varying degrees of disabilities.
For more information on our Assistive Technology department and the services we provide, please visit our Assistive Technology department webpage.
This information is provided by the Massachusetts Commission for the Blind.