Verizon Wireless Continues to Invest in Wireless Networks in Hawaii

Hawaii may be known for the surf and sun, but now, it is increasing its technological reputation with the help of Verizon Wireless. The company has heavily invested in the state since 2011 in an effort to increase wireless capability throughout the island and establish a successful network therein.

Now in 2013, the efforts will continue, with Verizon Wireless making its network and offerings available to even more inhabitants of the state.

“The continued expansion of our 4G LTE network in Hawaii further demonstrates our ongoing commitment to provide our customers with the highest quality communications technology,� said Verizon Wireless president for the region, Russ Preite, speaking on the company’s plans last July in a statement.

In 2012, Verizon Wireless invested $20.7 million in Hawaii to set up brand new wireless services reaching every vicinity of each island, building upon the 4G LTE network Verizon Wireless set up in the state in July 2011.

This newest investment is certainly not the first Verizon Wireless has made in the state, but has helped bring the company’s total contribution to Hawaii to more than $315 million since 2000.

Hawaii has become a prime venture for Verizon Wireless, as the company has consistently worked to increase its coverage all over the world, spending more than $80 billion in the process.

Hawaii has not had so much of a focus on it when it comes to communications, so Verizon Wireless’ efforts in the state have not gone unnoticed by those customers who have had access since 2011. Because of this, the expansion is creating understandable excitement for those in the neglected towns and areas.

“With the new and expanded markets, customers will be able to enjoy the best experience in wireless data usage when they stream video, share music and photos, download files and surf the Web with speeds up to ten times faster than before,� Preite added.

Of course, Hawaii in general is not totally in the dark, but Verizon Wireless believes that its specific network, plans and features are a significant upgrade to what Hawaiian residents and vacationers are used to.

“Our technology and networks help to make people stronger by delivering powerful solutions for consumers and businesses,� Preite continued.

The specific areas Verizon Wireless has expanded to include now are: Captain Cook, Glenwood, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, Hawi, Honokohau, Kailua-Kona, Kealakekua, Keahou, Ninole, Papaikou, Pepeekeo, South Kohala resorts (Hilton, Marriott, Mauna Lani, Hapuna), Volcano, Waikoloa, Waikoloa Village, Waimea, Lihue, Puhi, Nawiliwili, Wailua Homesteads, Kapaa, Lanai City, Manele Bay Resort, Haiku Town, Paia, Molokai, Hoolehua Airport, Iwilei, Makaha, Kapahulu, Kualoa Point, Mapunapuna and Waipahu.

For more information, visit www.verizon.com/powerfulanswers.  

Edited by Allison Boccamazzo


Fortinet Reports Four Samples of Money Making Malware to Watch for in 2013

The word “monetize� has certainly cracked the top ten list of industry buzzwords for this year. The context typically refers to how service providers, software developers and others are attempting to leverage things like the cloud and subscription services to be faster—to the market, in the market and most importantly to getting paid for their products and services.

And, while the legitimate monetization of new products and services dominates the headlines, unfortunately, bad actors are equally if not more interested in monetizing their malware. It is for this very reason that the latest findings of network security firm Fortinet, in its FortiGuard threat landscape research for the period of October 1 − December 31, 2012, makes for compelling if disturbing reading.

The focus by the team from FortiGuard Labs is on four typical methods cyber criminals use to extract money from their victims. The report also shows increasing activity in mobile malware variants of the Android Plankton ad kit, as well as in hacktivist Web server vulnerability scanning.

Four Money Making Malware to Watch for in 2013

Below are the bad boysFortiGuard Labs identified y as spiking during the end of last year. They reflect four typical methods cyber criminals are using today to monetize their malware:

1.       Simda.B: This sophisticated malware poses as a Flash update in order to trick users into granting their full installation rights. Once installed, the malware steals the user’s passwords, allowing cybercriminals to infiltrate a victim’s email and social networking accounts to spread spam or malware, access website admin accounts for hosting malicious sites and siphoning money from online payment system accounts.

2.       FakeAlert.D: This fake antivirus malware notifies users via a convincing-looking pop-up window that their computer has been infected with viruses, and that, for a fee, the fake antivirus software will remove the viruses from the victim’s computer.

3.        Ransom.BE78: This is ransomware, a frustrating piece of malware that prevents users from accessing their personal data. Typically the infection either prevents a user’s machine from booting or encrypts data on the victim’s machine and then demands payment for the key to decrypt it. The main difference between ransomware and fake antivirus is that ransomware does not give the victim a choice regarding installation. Ransomware installs itself on a user’s machine automatically and then demands payment to be removed from the system.

4.       Zbot.ANQ: This Trojan is the "client-side" component of a version of the infamous Zeus crime-kit. It intercepts a user’s online bank login attempts and then uses social engineering to trick them into installing a mobile component of the malware on their smartphones. Once the mobile element is in place, cybercriminals can then intercept bank confirmation SMS messages and subsequently transfer funds to a money mule's account.

Guillaume Lovet, senior manager of FortiGuard Labs' Threat Response Team stated that, "While methods of monetizing malware have evolved over the years, cybercriminals today seem to be more open and confrontational in their demands for money − for faster returns…Now it's not just about silently swiping passwords, it's also about bullying infected users into paying. The basic steps users can take to protect themselves, however, have not changed. They should continue to have security solutions installed on their computers, update their software diligently with the latest versions and patches, run regular scans and exercise common sense."

Mobile users beware of Android advertising malware

In the last threat landscape report, FortiGuard Labs detected a surge in the distribution of the Android Plankton ad kit. This is a nasty one. It embeds a common toolset on a user’s android device that serves unwanted advertisements in the user’s status bar, tracks the user’s International Mobile Equipment Identity (IMEI) number and drops icons on the device’s desktop. And, while the kit’s activity plunged, there has been an increase in copy cats.

As Lovet notes, "The ad kits we’ve monitored suggest that Plankton's authors are trying to dodge detection. Either that, or competing ad kit developers are trying to take a piece of the lucrative adware cake. Either way, the level of activity we’re seeing with ad kits today suggests that Android users are highly targeted and thus should be especially vigilant when downloading apps to their smartphones. " 

The best defense that the team is suggesting is that users protect themselves by paying close attention to the rights asked by an application at the point of installation. It is also recommended to download mobile applications that have been highly rated and reviewed.

Hacktivist scanning tool tops the charts

Finally, just in case you were not uncomfortable enough with the above, the FortiGuard Labs folks detected high activity levels of ZmEu. This is a tool developed by Romanian hackers to scan Web servers running vulnerable versions of the popular mySQL administration software (phpMyAdmin) in order to take control of those servers.

The targets are an interesting lot. Lovet says, "This activity spike suggests a heightened interest by hacktivist groups to facilitate various protests and activist movements around the world. We expect such scanning activity to remain high as hacktivists pursue an ever-increasing number of causes and publicize their successes." The recommended protection is updating to the latest version of PhPMyAdmin.

What all of this points to is that the level and brashness of those with malicious intent is escalating. It used to be that much of the cyber threats were either being done by those who just like to poke their fingers in the eyes of the establishment or business entities they don’t like. When this got old, they got heavily into identity theft and some pretty hefty pay days.

Others plowing the malware fields include governments engaging in cyber-warfare and terrorist organizations who are doing so for a variety of reasons. One reason is to wreak havoc on financial services entities in a kind of reverse monetization scenario, i.e., benefiting from disabling the ability of others to monetize.

The bottom line, as they say, is the bottom line. What is unsettling is the move by the producers of malware to get a bigger and faster return on their investment, and their willingness to practice extortion is a problematic sign of the times.

It is not as if there were not plenty of reasons for businesses and individuals to maintain a posture of constant vigilance regarding malware. This is what has been driving interest by IT professionals and others in increasing the number and types of anti-virus precautions, developing better end user education policies, and using encryption and other security techniques to mitigate the risks of falling victim to malware.

What is a bit dispiriting is that the bad guys are extremely adroit and ingenious. This is a good reason to not just be alert on a day-to-day basis, but to also keep up with reports such as this one from Fortinet to know what is trending so you can institute best practices and have some measure of peace of mind.  

Edited by Allison Boccamazzo

Customer Satisfaction Makes vCom a Telecom Guru

Customer Satisfaction Makes vCom a Telecom Guru

February 04, 2013



By , TMCnet Web Editor

In any business, the most important aspect is making sure that customers are satisfied. Whether it be a call center or VoIP provider, efficient customer care and product satisfaction are the key ingredients to a successful company. vCom Solutions followed this idea by focusing intensively on its clients’ needs and overall satisfaction with its products.

To further its understanding of its clients, each year vCom conducts an annual customer satisfaction survey to help maintain its popularity among consumers. In its December 2012 survey, vCom scored 94 percent customer satisfaction with 78 percent of those that responded. It also saw another great victory last year, as its vManager software received the Tem Excellence Award from INTERNET TELEPHONY magazine.

vCom Solutions is a telecom management company that helps increase user’s control and visibility over their spending and inventory. By working with business day-to-day operational management, financial optimization and business intelligence, vComs’ wireless solutions helps its clients lucratively manage their enterprise.  

The survey highlights also found a 96 percent satisfaction rate with the vManager tools’ ability to provide visibility into the company's telecom spend by location, inventory and service type. There was also 98 percent satisfaction in account team responsiveness and knowledge and a 98 percent satisfaction in vCom's consolidated billing being timely and accurate.

It is clear that vCom has managed to create a symbiotic relationship with its clients and excellent services. Not only does it conduct surveys, by vComs’ spends even more time analyzing and researching their clients even further. On its website, there are more than a dozen in depth case studies conducted over the past three years about client’s success stories. 

For more information about vCom solutions, click here.

Edited by Rachel Ramsey

TMCnet Communication Service Week in Review

It’s that day of the week again! Let’s take a few minutes to reconvene and review the latest developments in the CaaS community.

Starting the week off in a positive manner, Frontier Capital gave $10 million worth of investments to ConnectSolutions to help continue its growth in the Unified Communications (News - Alert) (UC) world. Frontier focuses on the growth of companies and decided that ConnectSolutions would be a successful investment. ConnectSolutions is a Unified-Communications-as-a-Service (UCaaS) solution based on its UC3 Platform that speeds up deployment of UC platforms.

AT&T has also partnered up with RingCentral (News - Alert) to offer cloud-based phone systems for both the work and home environment. With the BYOD ever increasing and the growth of UC rising, it is important that companies make devices that provide accessibility and integration for its users. The new partnership has helped create RingCentral Office @Hand from AT&T (News - Alert), which is a nationwide service that makes it easier for businesses to connect with each other and their customers, whether it’s in-office or mobile.

To help law students or attorneys operating from their mobile phones, FTI has announced its new Ringtail 8.3 Self-Serve Private Cloud to improve review workflow and create more management tools for legal reviews. FTI Consulting 8.3 version of its Ringtail e-discovery software can be accessed and managed in a secure, private cloud. Instead of wasting the money that goes along with procuring, installing and managing hardware, the new cloud-based system will be inexpensive, seamless and fast management operations.

Virtual Global created the SaaS Maker, which is an end-to-end platform that allows developers to, create publish and market software-as-a-service solutions (SaaS (News - Alert)) quickly and easily. The new software helps developers where most cloud platforms have fallen short, which is in the marketing area. The SaaS Maker features will improve the security, reliability and affordability for businesses operating in a cloud-based area.

Stay tuned next week for the latest news in CaaS!

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TMCnet Outbound Call Center Week in Review

February 02, 2013

This week we have seen how companies are helping to boost employment opportunities and promote better service options in the ever changing platform in 2013.

Our country is still recovering from a devastating economic depression that has left many American’s jobless, outbound call centers have become increasingly overwhelmed by unemployment claims in Pennsylvania because of a $30 million cut in federal funding for its unemployment contact center. People who are calling these centers are receiving busy signals and are unable to get their claims through, essentially slowing down the process of getting their unemployment money. The only advice that can be given to people trying to make claims is to call on days that are less busy and hopefully the technical difficulties will be addressed.

On a brighter note, to help the issues with unemployment and escalating debts that are going into collection, the Account Control Technology plans on hiring 300 new workers in its Dallas call center. To help with the collections volume and create recovery solutions Account Control will promote its new rules designed to help crack down on bad practices from debt collections, while tackling problems that US citizens face: debt issue and unemployment.

 Calabrio has already achieved large growths in contact center workforce optimization and analytics, reporting that in 2012, it earned more than 3,400 customers. Its solution has been adapted by many contact centers because of its comprehensive suite of workforce optimization software. Along with its customer growth and revenue, Calabrio (News - Alert) was placed in the 2012 “Visionary� quadrant in Gartner’s 2012 Magic Quadrant for Contact Center Workforce Optimization, making it Calabrio’s fifth year of inclusion in the report. 

For more exciting news on product development, Acqueon has designed solutions and partnerships for businesses to choose from in an effort to create a one-stop-shop contact center with designated partners and solution packages. With partners around the world, including Microsoft, Cisco, Avaya, Voxeo and Dialogic (News - Alert), and will be demonstrating its products and multi-channel solutions. Just this past week Acqueon demonstrated its new product at ITEXPO Miami.

Stay tuned next week for the latest news in Outbound Call Center!

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TMCnet Network Management Week in Review

This week we have seen how companies are improving their security measures to accommodate the ever changing platform in 2013.

DSP Group’s (News - Alert) XceedR announced that its family of best-in-class chipset solutions is helping Turkcell (News - Alert) SuperOnLine’s CAT-iq 2.0’s customer experience. Turkcell customers will now be able experience HD-voice quality, value-added multi-line, multi-handset services using the DSP’s Huawei (News - Alert) HG253 Fiber home gateway. By fusing together their resources DSP and Turkcell will be able to offer the best voice telephony experience.

Another partnership has formed as Dorel Industries selects AT&T’s global MPLS network to help connect and integrate its worldwide operations and multiple divisions. More than 40 of Dorel’s offices in North America, Europe and Asia are using the At&T MPLS-enabled Virtual Private Network to ensure that its employees experience improved collaboration, productivity and shared access of resources across the organization.

Fluke Networks, on the other hand, has released its own single-box network and application performance monitoring system, Visual TruView Appliance. After conducting a survey about its network professions, Fluke found that at least 50 percent of the respondents did not have access to tools for spotting issues with VOIP, application transactions and other network performance problems. With its new network performance system Fluke Network will address and fix the technicality problems its networks were facing.

ManageEngine (News - Alert) has also undergone some reprogramming as it has just updated its Application Managers software. The application now supports NoSQL technologies and conventional relational databases, and is equipped with a centralized console that allows Cassandra performance monitoring. It also provides memory utilization features that help companies monitor the performance of their applications. By upgrading its monitoring capabilities ManageEngine makes sure that the serves and applications are constantly running and solve any issues that may arise.

Stay tuned to the network management community to discover the new trends and latest developments for 2013.

TMCnet Session Border Controller Week in Review

February 02, 2013

By Carlos Olivera
TMCnet Content Producer

This week in Session Border Controller news, TMC (News - Alert) announced ACME Packet as a recipient of the 2012 INTERNET TELEPHONY Product if the Year Award winner. ACME Packet, a provider of session delivery solutions, was recognized for its Net-Net 6300 session delivery platform. The Net-Net 6300 is designed to deliver the most trusted service to the most advanced and largest IP communication networks.

"At Acme Packet (News - Alert), we strive to help our customers, both service providers and enterprises, meet the constant demand for next generation communication services by providing innovative and cutting-edge technology and solutions, and we're grateful that the editors at INTERNET TELEPHONY have recognized this effort."              

In other and unrelated SBC news, DIGITALK (News - Alert) has unveiled its latest version of its SBC VoIP Peering (News - Alert) Release 4. The newest version will include a number of new features like Wholesale Billing, simple release mapping configuration and greater control over call rate limits. With the new features, users will be able to generate automatic invoices, creation of credit notes and track payments and maintain a customer’s live balance.

"Release 4 demonstrates DIGITALK's commitment to SBC VoIP Peering as the complete solution for competitive wholesale service providers. Following a number of significant updates in 2012 to accommodate features such as US Jurisdictional Routing and LNP, the addition of Wholesale Billing in Release 4 continues the momentum in 2013,� said Paul Bassa, VP Product Marketing at DIGITALK.

TMCnet SIP Trunking Week in Review

This week in SIP trunking news, Turkcell (News - Alert) has announced that it will implement a dual carrier infrastructure through its subsidiary KKTcell. Turkcell, prominent communications and Technology Company, will implement the new dual carrier in the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, delivering a faster internet speed to its 35 million subscribers.


The new innovation makes Turkcell one of the first to implement a dual carrier infrastructure in the world. It will come equipped with 3G/HSDPA technology and will run at 43.2 Mbps speed.

"As the communication leader, we are responsible for bringing in the most advanced technologies to the island. This new technology will particularly be felt while downloading files and mobile internet users on 3G networks will be able to see speeds of up to 42 Megabit/second. We are proud to introduce dual carrier technology, which makes a difference globally, bringing further convenience to our customers," noted Ilkan Bulbul, marketing assistant and general manager at Turkcell.

In other SIP trunking news, MegaPath (News - Alert) Corporation announced a new offering for customers, Enterprise Trunking. The new feature is designed to reduce costs by consolidating to a single server, whether it be a business with multiple locations or a single-location business looking for a standalone SIP trunking solution.

"When compared to PRI and POTS lines, SIP Trunking is a reliable and cost-effective option for large enterprises and small businesses that want to reduce their telephone costs," said Dan Foster (News - Alert), president of Business Markets at MegaPath, in a statement. "By adding these solutions to our SIP Trunking offerings, we are making it even easier for customers to do business with MegaPath by providing the option to bring your own broadband connection or purchase SIP Trunking with one of our access solutions."

In other MegaPath news, it was announced that NEC Corporation of America has chosen MegaPath as the recipient of its NEC Session Initiation Protocol (News - Alert) (SIP) Trunking Interoperability certification. Getting the certification is a big deal for both companies, as they will partner up and MegaPath’s SIP trunking service will now be interoperable with NEC’s (News - Alert) UNIVERGE SV8100 and SL1100.

“As SIP trunking continues to grow in popularity, it will be important for companies to select solutions that can seamlessly integrate with their existing voice infrastructure,� said John Scarborough, vice president of products and services, MegaPath. “MegaPath works with our partners, like NEC, to ensure we deliver reliable, high-quality solutions that meet our customers’ voice needs without exhausting their budgets.�

TMCnet Green Technology Week in Review

In green technology developments this week, the United States and United Kingdom both unveiled new initiatives that will encourage more widespread consumer use of next-generation technology including plug-in electric vehicles, household energy efficiency improvements, and distributed energy.

When the U.S. Department of Energy issued a call for companies nationwide to encourage workplace EV charging, 13 major American employers responded with, “That’s how we roll.� Among the high-profile participants in the new Workplace Charging Challenge will be 3M, the Chrysler Group, Duke Energy (News - Alert), Eli Lilly and Company, Ford, GE, GM, Google, Nissan, San Diego Gas & Electric, Siemens, Tesla, and Verizon. Their pledges commit each partner organization to assess workforce plug-in electric vehicle (PEV) charging demands; and then develop and implement a plan to install charging infrastructure on-site at one major worksite location, at minimum. In addition, eight stakeholder organizations have signed the Ambassador Pledge to develop and execute plans to support and promote the workplace charging initiative, including: California PEV Collaborative, CALSTART, Electric Drive Transportation Association, Electrification Coalition, International Parking Institute, NextEnergy, Plug In America, and Rocky Mountain Institute. To support the partners and ambassadors who sign the pledge, DOE will provide technical assistance and establish a forum for Partners and Ambassadors to share information.

Householders in England and Wales will be able to  “insulate their homes from the cold and their wallets from rising energy prices,� now that the Green Deal has become effective, according to the United Kingdom’s Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) Secretary, Edward Davey.  As of January 28, the U.K. is making £125 million (US$196 million) available for the Green Deal program, which will enable homeowners and landlords to install energy-efficient improvements at no upfront cost. Instead, they will be able to pay for the property upgrades over time via a charge on their electricity bills.

What’s more, they can participate in a government cash back scheme, if the assessed property improvements are eligible. Packages could be worth over £1,000 (US$1,570), and if they are feeling generous, householders can choose to donate some or all of the cash they receive to a charity or community organization that has signed on with the scheme. The energy-saving improvements that DECC is encouraging include insulation, heating, double-glazing on windows, and installation of distributed energy sources, such as solar panels or wind turbines. The more work households decide to have done, the more cash they could receive. To qualify for the cash back scheme, prospective householders should schedule a Green Deal property assessment posthaste because funds are limited on a first-come, first-served basis and the rush for remuneration has officially started.  The Green Deal is now the U.K.’s flagship energy efficiency improvement program, aiming to improve more than 14 million homes by 2020. The scheme will run for a limited period, and there’s a different scheme in Scotland.

A similar program is starting up in California, where authorities recently launched a Clean Energy Sacramento in partnership with Ygrene Energy Fund, an expert in clean energy finance programs for local governments. Envisioned as a pioneering public-private partnership, Clean Energy Sacramento will offer energy efficiency, renewable energy and water conservation upgrades to local property owners at no up-front cost.  The project is expected to generate thousands of jobs, drive property values while also helping the city of Sacramento to reduce its energy consumption by 15 percent by the year 2020. Funding already has been approved for commercial and residential properties under the program.

In related news, Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E (News - Alert)), California’s largest utility provider, has received unanimous approval from the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) to buy power from SolarReserve’s planned 150-megawatt (MW) solar thermal plant in eastern Riverside County—which will be the first large-scale solar system in the state to offer energy storage capabilities.  The Rice Solar Energy Project’s molten salt system will provide as much as ten hours of energy-storage capability. Construction on the plant—which represents in excess of $750 million of direct investment in California and is expected to generate more than 5,300 jobs across the supply chain—is expected to break ground in early 2014 and begin commercial operation in mid-2016. Construction activities on-site are expected to peak at more than 670 workers. The 25-year Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) with PG&E for the output from the Rice project will become effective on June 1, 2016. The PPA will help PG&E to conform to a state law that mandates utilities to supply 25 percent of their electricity from renewable sources by the end of 2016 and 33 percent by 2020.

Additionally, Volkswagen has “powered up� a 9.5 megawatt (MW) solar system that represents both the largest single solar installation at an automotive manufacturing facility in the United States and in the state of Tennessee—as well as Volkswagen’s largest photovoltaic deployment worldwide. At a dedication ceremony on January 23, dignitaries flipped a giant light switch to signal the official opening of the Volkswagen Chattanooga Solar Park, built on 33 acres adjacent to VW’s manufacturing plant. The solar park comprises 33,600 solar modules from Shanghai-based JA Solar, designed to produce 13.1 gigawatt hours (GWh) of electricity annually.  The electricity produced by the solar installation will not be sold back to utilities. Instead, it is expected to meet 12.5 percent of the energy needs of the Chattanooga plant during full production and 100 percent during non-production periods.

Finally, North America’s cities are, quite literally, helping to “pave the way� for the warmer winters that the United States and Canada have been experiencing recently, according to the findings of a new study. In a paper just published in the journal, Nature Climate Change, researchers contend that the “urban heat island effect “is partially responsible for the somewhat milder weather that North Americans have experienced for several years.

What is the urban heat island effect? Anyone who lives near a city has noticed that the heat seems to radiate off the concrete and asphalt surfaces at night, making the metropolitan area at least several degrees warmer than the surrounding suburbs and rural regions. The reason is that urban paving and building materials are good conductors of heat. They absorb the heat during the daytime leaving the surface and the air above the sidewalks, streets, and buildings a little cooler. At night, however, the heat is conducted upward and released in and around the city.  And now, the scientists say, when ambient city heat–which is a few degrees higher than it was prior to global warming— is picked up by the jet stream currents in the air, it can lead to massive changes over a large area; causing temperatures to rise or fall by nearly 2°F thousands of miles away. Winter warming was detected as far away from cities as the Canadian prairies. The climatologists found a similar pattern in Asia, where major population centers conducted heat throughout Russia, northern Asia, and eastern China.

Edited by Jamie Epstein

Re-Enabled

iOS’s impact on those with impairments isn’t just a marketing slide; it’s profound.

Scott Forstall, then Apple’s iOS chief, stood onstage at the WWDC keynote last June and showed the audience a series of slides illustrating the many uses to which an iPad could be put. The one that resonated with me appeared for just a moment: It showed a boy with autism using an iPad.

That scenario plays out for me every day. I work with special-needs children, and I also have a severe visual impairment. The situation depicted is part of my every working moment. But I wondered if Forstall’s slide was just another marketing bullet point to those outside our community. Do other people know about the profound changes iOS has brought to those with disabilities?

iOS’s profound assistance

The accessibility technologies built into iOS — things like VoiceOver and Guided Access — let those with disabilities use their devices with as much wonder and enjoyment as the fully abled. VoiceOver describes aurally every object onscreen and its placement, as well as reading sequences of text aloud. Guided Access limits a device to a single app by disabling the Home button and limiting which onscreen areas can accept touch input.

Accessibility, as I relate to it, is best framed in the context of my visual impairment. Being born three months premature left me legally blind. In my case, that means “low vision�: I can see — just not clearly nor at a distance (certainly not well enough to drive, for instance), and I benefit greatly from accommodations like large-print books.

What large text means to me in 2012 is worlds different than when I was growing up. I was born in 1981, and accessibility was a far different beast during my formative years. Larger text meant more pages, resulting in thick and heavy books that I had to lug around in my backpack. The books were big and ugly, and I hated them with a passion. The price of accessibility sucked.

iOS has made those books into nothing more than distant memories. Large print is just a gesture or tap away on a device that fits into my pocket or my beloved Café bag from Tom Bihn. For someone like me, iOS is nothing short of a godsend. That I can pinch-to-zoom to my heart’s content in order to get my daily dosage of Daring Fireball, or tap once in Tweetbot to make the font bigger, makes my iOS devices all the more usable. More importantly, it makes iOS and the content I love all the more delightful.

On task

My day job has me working as a paraeducator (the more professional term for classroom aide) to preschoolers with special needs. The iPad is a huge success with them. My students’ disabilities are moderate to severe in range, and because they’re developmentally delayed to varying degrees, they need activities precisely tailored to suit their needs.

The iPad’s power for these children lies in the fact that we don’t need to teach how to use the thing. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve given an iPad to a student who’s fairly cognitively delayed and watched them tap and swipe like a pro. I’ve even had students master the advanced multitasking gestures (e.g., five-finger pinch to close an app) without any demoing or prompting whatsoever. In addition, I’ve had students ask for apps by name — Angry Birds and ABC Food being popular requests.

Furthermore, the iPad has changed the way we in the classroom view instruction. One of my daily tasks is to lead a small group session in which we work on pre-academic skills such as identifying colors, shapes, and the alphabet. Before the iPad, I used traditional, analog tools like flash cards, puzzles, and other manipulatives. While these tools still do (and should) have their place, the recurring question among staff is whether we need as much of the old-guard stuff in our curriculum.

The iPad is such a hit, in fact, that it serves as a motivator for our students to “use their words.� When one of our students wants to use the iPad, he or she has to ask for it; it requires using expressive language. Saying “iPad� or “I want iPad� or some approximation thereof (depending on ability, of course) is a win-win situation: Not only does the child get what he or she wants while practicing the use of language, but we as staff gain insight into their language and social-emotional development — as well as the pleasure of seeing a face light up.

You might suspect that the iPad’s whiz-bang interaction would distract our kids. But we’ve found that it keeps our students attentive and engaged far better and longer than any of our conventional tools. And with Guided Access, I can ensure that they stay on task by locking them into the app I want them to use. Moreover, the iPad is a tool they want to learn on and use. The iPad has nearly obviated the need (and the desire) to keep utilizing older materials, because the iPad is capable of helping our students grasp the necessary concepts in a modern, engaging way.

I work with two speech and language pathologists (SLPs) who are assigned to my classes. Once a week, they perform a “push-in� (large group) circle time in which they lead my students in singing songs, reading stories, and the like. The SLPs use the iPad to play music and show pictures of concepts related to the day’s lesson. This is reinforced in the small-group sessions that occur outside the classroom.

Beyond the benefits the iPad brings our students, it’s also been wonderful for staff. They buzz about the tablets in the hallways and staffroom. I hear conversations all the time about which apps work best for what activity, and how much the kids enjoy using the gear. And the parents have offered similar feedback.

Many of the parents own iOS devices, and they ask teachers and support staff for tips and tricks on how to make use of an iPad at home. We’ve even had parents who didn’t own an iPad buy one because they were so excited by our reports that their child’s learning progressed because of it.

Apps such as Notability and Dropbox are great for taking and storing assessment notes, while Safari is the gateway to our district’s Web service for keeping track of daily attendance. So not only is the iPad changing the way our students learn and access information, but it’s also helping the staff provide the best possible support in ensuring our students reach their highest potential.

Pocket full of superpowers

Every time I pick up my iPhone or iPad, I feel extremely fortunate that I’m living in this time. Being able to manipulate content with just my fingers, allowing me to get as close (or as far away) as necessary, feels genuinely magical to me. I often wonder how I made it through 12 years of schooling without multi-touch gestures and VoiceOver. The resources that are available now are spectacular.

A few months ago, Matt Gemmell had a great insight into what iOS means for disabled individuals, and it resonates with me still: “iOS devices are a lifeline. They’re a bionic enhancement — a pocket full of superpowers. The difference that they make to the life of a blind person is truly profound. They’re tools of independence, and of participation.�

If Apple strives for the intersection of liberal arts and technology, as Steve Jobs said, then the words you’ve just read epitomize that vision. It makes Forstall’s slide meaningful, because it’s no longer just a superficial marketing point. My experiences and those of my students personify that slide. We’re much more than feel-good marketing.

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Marco Arment, Editorial Director • Glenn Fleishman, Executive Editor
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