Important Messages, such as Service Disruption and Opening Times.

Our office hours are Monday to Friday, 9 AM to 5 PM UK time. We will try to give assistance to those people not living in the UK outside of those hours if possible.

The advantages of owning an iPad

I've been incredibly lucky recently as my partner L has just bought for me an Apple iPad 2. I had heard a lot about them, and I often work in large offices where people are around me showing off their iPads and talking about them. When this happened recently, I felt I really wanted one and, as I say, I was lucky enough to have it purchased for me.

The question I've been asked is, as a blind person, what advantages will there be over having an iPhone 4S, which I also have?

I do a lot of travelling each week and so I wanted to lessen the number of things I have to carry around not related to the work I do. The iPad would give me, hopefully, a longer battery life than the iPhone, together with a better quality speaker for listening to music or books as I am a prolific reader. Because of the battery life,, I could also manage all my email and talk to people on Twitter, Facebook and Skype if I had access to a wireless internet connection. This issue of the length of battery life seems to have been confirmed as I am already getting more time from it than I do the iPhone.

The iPad really is a mini computer. It delivers no background sound at all and I have found using it a real pleasure. I am comfortable using Safari to manage our web content on Team-FM, together with the rest of the above. I have also been introduced to iBooks, which if you don't know gives us as visually impaired people acccess to a huge range of books including the latest best-sellers, and this is going to be excellent. There's such a wide variety!

But, I hear you say, you can do a lot of this on the iPhone, so what else is there?

The most obvious advantage is the physical dimensions of the iPad as against the phone. The iPad of course is much larger in size. This means that typing text is far easier I think on the iPad. I have a bluetooth keyboard, (which I will write about in a moment), but because of the placement of the characters on the iPad it is much more like a QWERTY keyboard than can be accommodated on the iPhone. The physical resemblance is very similar. I have now become far more confident in terms of the placement of items on the iPad including the keyboard. This means for example if I want to send a tweet or a Facebook post, I can easily do that on the iPad's keyboard without the need for Flexi or the bluetooth keyboard, just using the one device. I like that a lot.

The other advantage relates to webpage layout. I can appreciate and conceptualise tables on web pages far easier on the iPad because of the greater space which is available.

So to the keyboard. I did purchase a case for the iPad with a keyboard incorporated. But I didn't like the feel of it. The iPad is such a well-made piece of hardware and I wanted a good case to go with it. This case with integrated keyboard just wasn't suitable. The keyboard could only be charged using a USB cable connected to a computer, added to which I felt uncomfortable in terms of the way the iPad fitted into the case.

Eventually, I got a conventional leather case for the iPad which accommodates it very well and I am very pleased with that.

So in summary, I am very pleased with the iPad and I know I am going to gain a great deal of use from it. I haven't used Facetime on it yet, but I have tested the built-in microphone using Skype's test calling service and it seemed of a good standard. It is important to note that Siri does not exist on the iPad, which is fine as I rarely use it.

If anyone has any questions about the iPad, please do let me know. But as a final thought, with the iPad being so readily available, it is very difficult these days to justify the cost of specialist "note-taking" devices, particularly if the user only requires speech output. If you purchase an iPad, possibly a bluetooth keyboard and some suitable apps, you have everything at your disposal many such devices have offered in the past, and a great deal more!