I recently met a student with an acquired print disability. He needed access to books and other print materials. Seems like an obvious solution, right? Get him a tablet, digital copies of his book, and he’s all set. Problem is, he doesn’t have a tablet, and the student said that he really doesn’t like using digital text. That’s important because one of the often broken rules of using any kind of technology is that we never use technology for technology’s sake. That’s how we get Skynet and the robot apocalypse. Besides, we don’t want device abandonment. That’s what happens when an AT user (or really the user of any technology) decides not to use the device because it’s too much trouble than it’s worth. For this student, the idea of using digital text just wasn’t appealing. Why would I waste my time and his trying to convince him of “The Healing Power of Digital Text?” Instead, I looked at the difficulty the student was having-- he had a tough time turning pages because it took a bit of effort to actually grab and hold each page to turn it. He needed something to help him grip the page to turn it. The solution we used was a pretty simple one. We used a rubber glove to help improve his grip on the pages. OK, so it's really a nitrile glove, but the principle is still the same. The material of the glove has higher friction with the paper than just the student's finger alone. Wearing the glove would give him enough friction to drag the page along as he moved his finger.
The student couldn’t wear a full glove (sorry Michael Jackson fans), but he could wear the cutoff fingers from the gloves. The two digits he really needed were the index finger and the thumb.
With those two, he was able to easily grip and turn the page. His smile and “Oh wow! That’s nice! It’s much easier,” told me that we had found the solution for him. Sometimes when we need to find assistive technology for someone, we get too caught up in trying to find the high-tech solution instead of being open to the “just right” solution. Understanding the individual’s needs and listening to the person are the best ways to find a workable solution and quite possibly avoid the robot apocalypse.