Till last month, for Parinaze Hansotia, 20, who suffers from cerebral palsy, making notes was a cumbersome and often impossible exercise. Hansotia has no control over the muscles of the right side of her body since she was three years old and lacks hand-eye coordination. The Bandra resident walks with difficulty, cannot sit for long periods or even hold a pen.
However, she recently discovered an iPhone application called Siri – an intelligent personal assistant. She now dictates notes to it, and the software types them out on a screen. Hansotia can also command Siri to open a website for reference or send an email.
Latest advancements in gadgets such as mobile phones and tablets, with voice command and touch screen facilities, have opened up new possibilities for those with special needs and schools are discovering the many uses they can be put to. “Parinaze’s performance in class has improved now that she is able to spend more time studying with the help of the iPhone and iPad,” said her father Viraf Hansotia, an entrepreneur.
Parinaze is a Class 9 student from the National Institute of Open Schooling (NIOS) at Little Angels School, Bandra. Her school uses computers, mobile phones, tablets and interactive boards to teach students with disabilities. “Technology has helped maximise the students’ potential. It allows for group leaning which helps improve social skills and integration,” said Jehangir Afshari, director, Little Angles School.
The iPad motivates Parinaze to move her hand and type because it does not require any pressure. It has improved her hand-eye coordination and concentration remarkably,” said Viraf, who purchased the iPad for personal use and realised its usefulness for his daughter.
In his Andheri home, Aniket Wagle, 16, who also suffers from cerebral palsy, got an iPad as a gift from his parents two years ago. “I use the iPad to download books, play cricket and keep in touch with my friends,” said Wagle, a student of Little Flower High School, Andheri, who scored 66% in his Secondary School Certificate (SSC) exams this year.
His father, Dhiren Wagle, has installed the talking animal application in the iPad to refine Aniket’s speech. Every day, he spends five hours with the iPad on his lap, typing and practicing to speak without stammering.
“The goal is to increase his self-confidence and improve his sensory and mobility skills,” said Sonali Gomez, a special educator and Wagle’s tutor. While teaching Wagle, Gomez first asks Aniket to type on the iPad what he has understood. “The touch screen of the iPad allows him to type easily.”