New iPhone, iPad app helps the disabled to communicate

Victor Pauca has plenty of presents to unwrap this Christmas, but the 5-year-old Winston-Salem boy has already received the best gift he’ll get this year: the ability to communicate.

Victor has a rare genetic disorder that delays development of a number of skills, including speech. To help him and others with disabilities, his father, Paul, and some of his students at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, have created applications for the iPhone and iPad that turns their screens into communications tools.

The VerbalVictor app allows parents and caregivers to take pictures and record phrases to go with them. These become “buttons” on the screen that Victor touches when he wants to communicate. A picture of the backyard, for example, can be accompanied by a recording of a sentence like “I want to go outside and play.” When Victor touches it, his parents or teachers know what he wants to do.

“The user records the voice, so it’s something the child’s familiar with. It’s not robotic,” Paul Pauca said.

The app, which should be for sale for $10 in Apple Inc.’s iTunes store by early next week, is one of dozens of new software products designed to make life easier for people with disabilities.

Associated Press