Josh de Lioncourt has written a review of iPad use for visually impaired persons. He’s pretty positive, though reading between the lines I’m guessing version iPadOS 4.1 will be much better (4.0 is due out this fall, I expect 4.1 @ Feb). It does seem like Apple turned a corner with the 3GS iPhone; previously they’d taken a big step backwards with the Classic to OS X transition.
An essential feature for visually impaired persons is VoiceOver, Apple’s robust screen reader. These same technologies are also very helpful for people who struggle to read. Voice commands help those who struggle to write, and predictive text entry helps students who have trouble typing.
The same features that make the iPad accessible to a large number of Americans who don’t use computers well also make it interesting to the special needs community. It is relatively simple to use, very easy to maintain, and much more resistant to virus infection than traditional computing devices.
The next generation iPad will almost certainly support video conferencing (that’s far more likely than adding a camera). There are many uses of that kind of technology in providing support to special needs teens and adults.
It’s a new world indeed.