The feeling of “intimidation” on the part of blind people toward touch-screen devices continued until Apple launched its break-through invention for its IOS devices, the screen speech reader, VoiceOver. Developed to work in many languages in the iPad 4, VoiceOver proved to be the most competitive screen reader program available for the blind. This speech program comes already integrated in the iPad system, and all that the blind user needs to do is to turn it on in the settings menu. Indeed, this is revolutionary, as the blind user does not need to spend any extra money to obtain a speech program to work with the iPad, as is the case with all other computing devices. In addition to being free-of-charge, VoiceOver is quite efficient and effective.

Since I obtained the iPad, I have been using it in multiple ways for my classes and research. I have been using the iPad for note-taking, browsing and Skyping: originally, I thought I can use the iPhone for these purposes, but soon I discovered that in spite of the many similarities between different IOS devices, the iPad 4 is more superior, in terms of speed, functionality and versatility. The nature of the VoiceOver program associated with the IOS devices makes use of the iPad much easier due to the more compacted size and surface. One of the main moves required for operating the VoiceOver is the flickering of the finger on the flat screen: certainly, the size of the screen on the iPad makes it a lot easier to navigate the different buttons.

In my classes, I have used the iPad to establish Skype connections with a number of guest-speakers from and on the Middle East. This has been quite an active year in the Arab World due to the Arab Spring, and nothing has been more beneficial than to provide students with first-hand perspective on related issues from people in the region. Moreover, I have used the iPad to introduce students to many relevant video clips on pertinent developments in the Middle East, through Youtube.

Through Skype and Youtube, my students, when relevant, had a unique opportunity to enhance their learning skills and to sharpen their critical analysis. Although I am yet to read students comments on course evaluations, I could already tell how engaged students were whenever we had a guest-speaker to talk to them via Skype on issues of interest. Of course, all of this takes place without costing us a penny, because in most cases, people who are involved in political developments abroad happen to be eager to share their perspective with others.

I have done the same for my research and media interviews, where Skype proved to be an effective medium of communication.

One is justified to say: “why not use a computer” to achieve the same purposes? While almost every classroom is equipped with a computer and a projector, none has a screen speech reader program to enable me to use Skype and/or Youtube independently: I always had to rely on others for help, before.

No technological gadget is trouble-free. Still thus far I have not been able to record Skype talks by guest-speakers and/or interviews I do for the media. In addition, the iPad is not capable of multitasking in most instances. Although I have succeeded in establishing a Bluetooth connection between the iPad and my Braille notetaker, which proves to be very useful, the connection disables the functionality of the Braille device as a notetaker, and turns it only into a Braille display. This necessitates having a more compatible Braille display to be used exclusively with the iPad, as it noticeably enhances effective and efficient use.

                Deepest thanks to the ETG for all its help.

Submited by
Hisham Ahmed
Politics Department

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