CHOOSING APPS FOR REHABILITATION, LEARNING AND LEISURE ACTIVITIES INVOLVING VISUALLY-IMPAIRED CHILDREN
1 National Research Council of Italy, Institute for Educational Technology (CNR-ITD) (ITALY)
2 David Chiossone Institute (ITALY)
About this paper:
Conference name: 10th International Conference on Education and New Learning Technologies
Dates: 2-4 July, 2018
Location: Palma, Spain
Abstract:Digital technologies play an important role in the field of low vision, particularly in early rehabilitation efforts to sustain visual capacity and stimulate the other senses so as to prevent any global development deficit.
Among the vast range of digital technologies available today, tablets and the apps that run on them hold a particular fascination for children. This also holds true for children who have visual impairments, as these tools can motivate them to concentrate on tasks and regularly exert visual effort as part of their rehabilitation regime and general growth. However, in order for these gains to materialize, a wide range of suitable apps must be available that visually-impaired children can use in rehab with therapists, at school with teachers, and at home with family members.
At first sight, such access may not seem to be a problem, given the wide variety of products available in apps stores and the existence of authoritative inclusion-oriented services providing general support and guidelines. However, finding and choosing specific apps that different visually-impaired children can use in various contexts and for different purposes (rehabilitation, learning, leisure) is actually not a straightforward matter at all.
Faced with this challenge, various users and their network of supporters have initiated spontaneous self-help efforts by informally sharing opinions and experiences online and in this way fostering the exchange of unstructured and heterogeneous information pertinent to the concerns of many visually impaired people. To support these grassroots efforts, enrich them with research expertise, and provide the structural support necessary to upscale them, the authors of this contribution have undertaken a research project starting from the definition of the key features of apps that make them more or less suitable for use by and with visually-impaired children in different contexts. The idea is that a working knowledge of these key features will allow therapists, teachers and families to guide users in choosing apps that suit different needs and purposes.
As part of the project activities, a group of therapists with solid experience in the low-vision field analyzed mainstream products available in app stores, gauging the affordances and hindrances these might present for visually-impaired children. Their evaluations were reported in terms of the apps’ rehabilitative potential (e.g., hand-eye coordination, visual scanning, visual tracking), suitability for different degrees of low vision (i.e., mild, medium, severe), and recommended context of use (e.g., rehabilitation, school, home). This evaluation process was coupled with, and informed by, field tests involving therapists and visually-impaired children working in tandem.
The main outcome emerging from these investigations is SHAREHAB, a hybrid online environment (https://www.sharehab.it/) dedicated to supporting the effective use of the apps by (mainly) children with low vision. The platform blends systematic, structured data from recognized experts and vital know-how and practical insights from end users regarding the usability of apps usable for rehabilitation, education or leisure activities. Hence, SHAREHAB is a collaborative effort helping to guide people in the choice of the most suitable apps for use with and by children with different degrees of low vision, applicable in various contexts and with different purposes.
Keywords: App, low-vision, resource choice, rehabilitation, education, leisure.