I know, how is that possible? How does one do that? Can one do that? Why would one want to do that?
Before I give you the secret, and no it's not 42, I'll explain myself a bit more thoroughly.
I've got an iPad. A few of them actually through work. I've used every generation of them so far. I've been exposed to every release of iOS that's shown up for installation.
I've seen the fireworks shows presentations.
I've seen the 60 Minutes pieces.
I've downloaded (and used) the apps.
And then I realized that the magic I wanted wasn't in the iPad. The real magic was in figuring out exactly what I needed to get the job done. It was in figuring out that I didn't need 3 to 1,000 variations of a To-Do list. I needed to know what I needed in a To-Do list. Should it to let me set deadlines on items on the list? Should it to remove completed items? Should it to remind me that I still have items to do on my list? Should it to play "Like A Boss" every time I complete an item? What do I need it to do? Another way to phrase this is what are the properties or features I need in my To-Do list program app? Once I started looking at the features I needed, the hardware or program delivery system became, in many cases, less important. The program app I was using became much more important.
And then hardware became important again. I needed something that would run my To-Do list. I needed that something to be portable to go with me and be available at a moment's notice. I would also like to be able to use a regular full-sized keyboard to enter items into it. I don't need to have just one thing to do this on too. I would also like the flexibility of being able to update my To-Do list from home or work. So maybe I could use an iPad for this? I definitely could. However, I already have a home computer, a work computer, and a smart phone. I could access the To-Do list on my smart phone for ultimate portability. With the right app program, I could enter the To-Do list from my home/work computer and modify it on my work/home computer. Then, I could access it on the go when I needed to from my smart phone.
Perhaps I don't need that iPad tablet after all.
I want to state as I have before in past writings, I'm not anti-iPad. I'm not anti-tablet. I am pro-maximized use of what you have. Tablets are nice, but if I don't need to get one, why should I? I know the fine folks at Apple, Samsung, Asus, Microsoft, and Google could all give me lots of reasons why they want me to buy one, but that's because it helps their bottom line. Now, I'm not saying that any reasonable adult with the means shouldn't get a tablet if they want one.
Let's talk about this in terms of something most people can relate to buying--cars.
Now suppose you can get just one car. How would you decide what to get? Would you start at a car dealership and just let the dealers pick your car? Would you start with what you can afford to spend? Maybe you would start with what characteristics you need in a car (legroom, cargo space, magical cup holders)? Would you just go out and get a car and work it all out later? Usually, unless you're independently wealthy, you put time and thought into what you need in a car, and then you find the car that has as many of those features you're looking for.
We need to use the same type of approach when looking for assistive technology solutions. We need to realize it's not necessarily the hardware alone where the magic resides. It may be the total package of hardware and software, but we need to understand what the true magical bit is.
So let's look at a practical example. Recently, I loaned a man and his daughter an iPad for her to use for school. She needed something to help her with taking notes and staying organized. Great. The iPad worked great for her. It was nice and lightweight, she could take pictures of the whiteboard in her classes and use them for studying later. She could take her notes on it, and it was insanely cool. It did everything she needed it to do.
Her father was a bit taken aback by the prospect of paying the $500 for an iPad in order to get his daughter what she needed. So, we started talking about what she was doing with the iPad and what apps she was using. It turned out she was using Evernote and the tablet's camera. That's it. Imagine Dad's surprise when he found out that Evernote was available on multiple platforms. He didn't need to spend the $500 on an iPad when he could just as easily spend $90 on an inexpensive Android tablet that would run Evernote and had a camera. So everything she needed to do could be done for a lower price tag and, for her purposes, equally as well. Neither of them knew that when the daughter got home she could actually log in to her Evernote account and access her notes on Dad's desktop computer or her laptop. Neither knew that they could download the Windows and Mac programs for their respective computers. At that point, they realized that the delivery method wasn't as important as the true tool-- Evernote.
The delivery system was important for the camera, but the daughter could have used her cell phone iPod Touch as a camera. At the end of the day, they realized what she really needed (access to Evernote for her note-taking and a camera for pictures of the board) was a highly portable package so she could take it from class to class. Cost, it turned out, was a factor for them as well since the school wasn't providing the AT. So taking these factors into consideration, a cheaper Android tablet with a camera provided a suitable solution for school, and then, integration of the computer options at home for a larger screen.
By the time all was said and done, Dad had spent $90 for the tablet AND the school agreed to upgrade the daughter's Evernote account to a premium account for $45. The most important outcomes were that the daughter was happy and confident in her ability to use her tools, and everyone felt the solution was a fair and equitable one.
Just to be clear, the point is not the sheer awesomeness of Evernote, even though it's pretty awesome. The point is that the student found and used a tool for taking her notes that fully met her needs in the classroom and at home. The focus wasn't the device. It wasn't the software delivery system. In fact, it wasn't about the software. The focus was on finding the AT tool with the right features for her. It was about her doing what she needed to do when and where she needed to do it. There are other systems out there that are similar to Evernote and very useful (Springpad and Microsoft One Note to name a couple). The important take-away here is that the hardware wasn't the magic so much as the software was.
So the next time you're ready to recommend something to someone, stop and ask yourself if you really understand what they're looking for and the parameters surrounding that need. If you don't, ask a few questions. You might find that your recommendations change. If they don't and you're still recommending only one solution without (really honestly and truly) considering other options, ask yourself this: Are you stuck living in the Device X era or if you've transcended?
When you do transcend and live post-brand, it can be like that.