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Quirky App Of The Day: Touch Tutorial

Quirky App Of The Day: Touch Tutorial

May 4, 2011
I thought that this app was ridiculous when I first saw it. It sounded like the developers wanted to charge people for a tutorial on how to use a touch screen when people could get one for free from the internet or the manual the phone came with. They do. That's exactly what they designed the app to do. I was completely unaware about the intended audience, and that's what makes this app amazing and heart-warming. Sit back and enjoy, because this Quirky App Of The Day is warm fuzzies and hopeful. I went to the developer website to get their contact information. I wanted to see what they thought made their product special enough to merit charging for free advice. I was met with a page for helping autistic people adapt to world around them. I was rightly floored and humbled. The target audience is autistic adults who are independent, but they need help integrating technology into their lives. This app helps explain these new ideas to them using simple vocabulary, sounds, and backgrounds to help them best. Over a black screen with white writing, users learn skills such as tap, double tap, holding, and zooming. Each skill is represented by its own icon. The "click" that users hear lets them know that they did it correctly. After learning the new skills, users play a small game that integrates the new skill in with the others. Users are show an icon at a different part of the screen and have to preform the task associated with each icon. They're timed, so they can see how good they're getting at recognizing and preforming these gestures. Behavioral scientist Jenny Winningham and computer programmer Tom Krones dedicate themselves to building apps for people with learning disabilities. I thought that it was a good idea, but I wasn't certain about how many people with learning disabilities would need to learn these sorts of skills. I didn't expect that many of them would have to use and iPhone or iPad for work. The next few days opened my eyes to a way of looking at the technology around me. I went to the grocery store, and right at the checkout is a machine that I have to use to swipe a card facing the right way, the right direction, and the right speed. After that, I have to press buttons for a PIN, use a stylus to sign my name, and my finger on a touch screen to confirm everything. That was just because I got the late-night munchies and sped off to Walmart. Doctor's offices are no different. Signing in and confirming payment, consent, and identity are all becoming more automated through these types of touch devices. People who are autistic or have learning disabilities are truly needing these skills as they try to gain independence. Guardians and caregivers can use this app to instruct them about how and when to use these gestures. All in all, this was a wonderful learning experience for me. I had never thought before about how hard it might be for people with learning disabilities or spectrum disorders to go to the grocery store, fast food store, doctor office, heck, even the DMV, if they didn't know how to use touch screens and PIN pads. So my hat goes off to people like Jenny and Tom who keep them in mind as they continue to develop apps that include more people into our technological world, rather than exclude them because they couldn't keep up otherwise. I hope to have more exciting apps from them in the future to bring out and review. The Touch Tutorial is available at the iTunes store for $0.99

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