Down's Syndrome and Computing

The needs of people with Down's Syndrome vary enormously and there may be many ways that computers could help them with communications at work, at home or in education. This blog covers just a few of them and is written to mark World Downs Syndrome Day on March 21.

Down's Syndrome, also known as Down's Syndrome in the USA is a genetic condition that typically causes some level of learning disability and a characteristic range of physical features. Source: http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/Downs-syndrome/Pages/Introduction.aspx. There are over 40,000 people in the UK with the condition. Source: http://www.downs-syndrome.org.uk/

Top tips for easier computing for people with Down's Syndrome

It’s difficult to be specific about what the challenges and obstacles that someone who has Down’s Syndrome might face but whatever they are ther will almost certainly be there will be software or hardware adaptations available that will help.

World Downs Syndrome Day is 21 MarchIf you have the condition you might want to use a different keyboard (perhaps alphabetical) or alternative pointing device to make it easier for you to use the computer.  You may even want to change the way the keyboard reacts when you hit a key. Ifg you're not sure how to do that check out My Computer My Way, AbilityNet's interactive guide to all the many ways you can change setting in your computer, tablet or smartphone

You also may benefit from some software which helps you plan and write your work and have text spoken out to you.  Mind mapping software such as Freemind (http://freemind.sourceforge.net/wiki/index.php/Main_Page) or Inspiration (http://www.inspiration.com/) is useful for making notes on content that you want to include in your work. You could even use the outline feature in Word to help you make brief notes.

If you find reading a bit difficult you could change the font style (http://www.abilitynet.org.uk/mcmw/changing-your-fonts/) for one that is easier for you to read. You can also get software which will actually speak text out for you. (http://www.ivona.com/en/mini-reader/). Best of all, this package is free!

One of the ways that people who have Down’s Syndrome communicate is via Makaton which is a sign language vocabulary. There’s a Makaton-based app for this which will run on an Ipad although please note this is not free.

Case study

Imran’s dad called our helpline as Imran had some difficulties with using the keyboard. We suggested using an alphabetic keyboard and some word prediction software so that Imran could effectively use the computer and do his homework for college.

If he gets tired he can also get the software to read back what Imran has written. After he’s done his homework he can chat to his friends on social networking sites.

How can we help?

AbilityNet helps disabled people use computers and the internet at work, at home and in education. There are a few ways that we can help:

  • Call our free Helpline. Our friendly, knowledgeable staff will discuss any kind of computer problem and do their best to come up with a solution. We’re open Monday to Friday from 9am to 5pm on 0800 269 545.
  • Arrange a home visit. We have a network of AbilityNet ITCanHelp volunteers who can help if you have technical issues with your computer systems. They can come to your home, or help you over the phone.
  • We have a range of factsheets which talk in detail about technology that might help you, which can be downloaded for free.  You may find our factsheets talking about voice recognition and keyboard alternatives useful.
  • My Computer My Way. A list of free hints and tips that you can use to make your time on the computer that bit easier. http://www.abilitynet.org.uk/mcmw

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