Android Tablets As Assistive Technology Aids.

Just a few years ago, the possibility of owning a portable electronic augmentive communication device was simply beyond the reach of many people. These devices often cost thousands of pounds and required people to rely on the charity of family, friends and fundraisers to pay for the devices. Even today augmentive communication devices are incredibly expensive, as are other portable assistive technology aids such as portable electronic document readers for blind and partially sighted people.

Meanwhile, a quiet revolution has been occuring. Successful marketing of an idea that owning a touch-screen tablet buys you into a certain level of coolness that owning a (probably much more practical) laptop doesn't has resulted in everyone wanting a tablet device. Manufacturers around the world have been cashing in on that demand and as a result the market is flooded with portable electronic touch-screen devices, wildly varying in price but typically based on the ARM processor.

This has a potentally huge benefit for technologically savvy people who want to create custom and relatively low cost portable assistive technology aids. If you have an idea of how a tablet device could become a useful aid then there's probably a low or no cost way of realising that idea.

I'm not going to cover IOS here. Where possible I'm also going to avoid apps that cost more than a couple of quid or so. I'm really looking at Open Source, community led developments that encourage cutting edge thinking that ultimately lead to accessible solutions available to everyone.

1. What to do if you've got a brilliant idea about how you could convert a cheap Android tablet into an assistive technology aid for someone.

First, learn how to program!

You can use RFO BASIC to write progams directly on an Android device, but you'll probably find it easier to program on a PC. Alternatively you can code using Eclipse.

Android Emulator available in the
Android SDK. All free - the only cost is your time spent learning.

Install Android Emulator on PC.

Useful tips from

Step 0. Install Java SE Development Kit (JDK)
Download and run installer from ... 32154.html

Step 1. Install Eclipse IDE
Download "Eclipse Classic" version (recommended) from

Step 2. Download Android SDK
Go to : download then run SDK installer and follow all instructions
After installation, in the Android SDK Manager, uncheck the latest proposed package (i.e. Android 4.0.3 API 15) and instead check Android 4.0 API 14, then click install all packages > Install
Make a note of the full path of the folder where SDK was installed

Step 3. Install Android Development Tools (ADT) plugin for Eclipse
Follow the instructions at ... g-adt.html

For RFO BASIC  follow these steps:

Important - you will need to download this file - Source Code for Building an Application - and make a note where you unzipped it.

Window->Android SDK manager. Make sure that you have installed the "SDK Platform" for Android 4.0

Window->AVD Manager.
Press New.
Give the emulator a name (for example: em4.0)
Select a target (Andorid 4.0....)
Give the SDCARD some size (1GB)
In the hardware section, select NEW->SD Card Support
Click on "Create AVD"

Go back to Window->AVD Manager
Select the newly created emulator.
Press Start
Wait for it to start

Once the emulator has fully started, unlock the screen
Back in Eclipse, in the Package Explorer on the left side
Right Click on Basic
Select Run As->Android Application
Wait for BASIC! to load into the emulator

You can download the RFO App-Builder from

Or just code in Eclipse

Aug 31 2012