Accessories for Special Needs

Whether you're a parent (like myself), caregiver, educator, therapist, etc. you're probably aware that the iPad is revolutionizing the special needs community. This article looks at some of the accessories that can enhance the utility of the iPad.

The individual situation of a person with special needs will dictate the type of accessories they'll need. For example, a young boy with mild autism may only need a carrying case and shoulder strap, but an individual with severe cerebral palsy and limited hand-finger movement may require a switching device to interact with their iPad.

Protect the iPad

Regardless of an individual's needs, the first thing you need to do is protect the iPad. Here are a few products I recommend.

Fashion iPad Stand


Editor's ChoiceFashionStandNI use a Fashion iPad Stand from to protect my daughter's iPad. It doubles as a stand, allowing us to prop it up for easy viewing on her cart, tray, or table. The front cover can be positioned to lay flat or tucked under a tiny flap in the back of the case to act as a stand. Although the vendor refers to it as a "leather" case, it's really constructed of durable, artificial leather that encases a sturdy board that protects the iPad. It does not include a pocket to store a cleaning cloth (which would have been nice), and the cover closes with magnetic latches (which may bother some people).

7-10" Netbook / iPad Sleeve


7-10SleeveNEditor's ChoiceI use this inexpensive and durable sleeve to protect my daughter's iPad during her daily commute. The sleeve is padded with 10 mm of foam cushion for extra protection, and the zippered case offers a tight seal. There's enough room in the sleeve to hold the iPad inserted into the Fashion Stand; it's a little bulky, but the added protection is great. It's also easy to insert and remove the iPad/Fashion Stand combo. About the only thing missing is an interior pocket. The case is available directly from Case Logic, but I found it at a Marshalls store for half price!

iPad Carry Case


iPadCarryNRJ Cooper & Associates offers this wearable iPad carrying case for individuals on the go. The case has a snap hinge to keep the iPad from falling out, and the adjustable strap clips to the case and slips over your shoulder for secure carrying. The case is open in the front, but ships with a clear screen overlay for added protection. Two suggestions for the developer: add a small pouch to the case to carry a cleaning cloth and modify the protective flap so that it can act as table stand for better viewing. As is, this is a great case for on-the-go users.

Sound accessories

Sound accessories are a great and affordable way to amplify the limited speaker capacity of the iPad. These are especially helpful for those with hearing disabilities and are also great for use with the various communication (AAC) apps.

EQ5 Ultra-Portable Wireless Speaker

$28.20,; Motorola,

EQ5UltraNThe iPad's built-in speaker is reasonably good for most uses, but insufficient if you want to use the iPad as a device to supplement or enhance impaired speech or writing (Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) device). In this case, you'll need an external device like Motorola's EQ5 Ultra-Portable Wireless Speaker. Simply pair this Bluetooth-enabled device with your iPad and it increases the volume by 200%. The 3.5-ounce speaker is powered by a rechargeable battery that, depending on usage, can last up to 3 days between recharges. It has a built-in mini-stand and easy to access controls. You can carry it separately or affix it to an iPad case or stand with Duolock (3M) strips. I love the fact that you don't have to fuss with any wires.

Mounting accessories

Mounting accessories are important for those individuals who have difficulty physically holding the iPad. By using a mounting accessory, an iPad can be mounted to a desk, wheelchair, etc., making it more accessible to those who have limited movement.

H-57 Mini-Arm (includes iPad mount)

$129, (Includes large iPad Duolock (3M) Piece, 4.5" Plastic Mounting Disk and Super-Clamp)

H57MiniArmNThe Mini-Arm is great is for mounting the iPad to a wheelchair or tabletop surface. It has two knobs to adjust the viewing angle and includes a clamp to fasten it to a wheelchair, table, or desk. Its telescoping arm allows you to adjust the position of the mount.

Ideally, what you would do is affix the iPad with Duolock (3M) strips (Velcro isn't strong enough) to either the back of the iPad itself or better yet, to the back of the iPad's case. You then attach the iPad to the included 4.5" round plastic disk that is at one end of the Mini-Arm. Then using the Super-Clamp at the other end, you clamp it firmly to a wheelchair, desk or tabletop for optimal viewing and interaction with the iPad. This is a great accessory and a must-have for those in a wheelchair or kid cart.

Protect your investment

In closing, I'd like to emphasize the need for protecting your device. The wear-and-tear of daily use can be greater in special needs situations, and a good case can help protect your investment.

It's exciting to see iPad accessories being developed for the special needs community, but it's important to note that many of the accessories I've mentioned were not specific to special needs. You need to use your imagination and creativity when looking for accessories. Definitely check out your local TJ Maxx and Marshalls, as well as for affordable cases and accessories. Regarding more specialized iPad accessories, definitely shop around online for the best price.

I want to thank RJ Cooper & Associates, Inc. ( for providing me with some of the products reviewed in this article. Their generosity and knowledge about special needs is greatly appreciated! I also would love to hear about any other iPad accessories that you recommend for those individuals who have special needs. Please e-mail your suggestions as well as questions to Don't forget to visit my blog for everything related to special needs apps and accessories for the iPad and iPhone (



These accessories optimize the iPad for special needs users
March-April 2011
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