What is a PDA?

A PDA is a Personal Digital Assistant and is generally a handheld device designed to facilitate organisational ability from amobile platform. While the original PDAs were somewhat limited to keeping address, phone, calendar, and task lists, today’s PDA can function as a cell phone, fax, provide internet connectivity, and much more.

There are many different types of PDAs, but most models work with either Palmtop software or a special version of Microsoft Windows called Windows Mobile. All models can interface with a laptop or desktop system, though optional accessories may be required. Synchronization between computer and PDA is one of the most popular features of this digital device. (Source: WiseGeek)

Using a PDA to support notetaking and/or writing (Source: JISC TechDis)

Disaboom article on using a PDA if you have a disability.
image of Dell Axim PDA
Image: Dell AximX50 (compatible with Pocket HAL)

WordLogic Text prediction

WordLogic helps you input information into your PDA. When you enter a letter, WordLogic Predictive Keyboard displays the five most likely letters and words to follow. It accesses different dictionaries, as well as remembers the words you use most often. In addition, WordChunking technology helps you select more complex words. Through simple taps and gestures you can input long or complex words. You can add-on other WordLogic language dictionaries including French, German, Spanish, Dutch, Italian and Portuguese.

The Desktop Tool can be accessed from the ActiveSync panel and can be used to add new words from documents, e-mails, notes, tasks or manual entry. It can be used to manage your own personal dictionary of words allowing you to add, delete, edit and change the priority of words as needed. (info source: Softlow.com)
WordLogic screenshot

Screenshot of WordLogic
Using a PDA with WordLogic text prediction

Setting up handwriting recognition on a Nokia N800

LevelStar Icon - An accessible PDA for the blind

The LevelStar Icon is a new Linux-based blind-accessible PDA.

Listen to an audio of the device being described by Joshua Miele, Ph.D., Research Associate, Smith-Kettlewell Eye Research Institute's Rehabilitation Engineering Research Center, San Francisco, California. Listen . . .

What it can do:

Calendar – Store all your important appointments in one place and take them with you. Address Book – Always have access to phone numbers, email and web addresses for your contacts. And, easily sync-up your address book and calendar with Microsoft Outlook®. Web Browser – Surf the Internet with ease even when you're on-the-go. With a WiFi® wireless connection and an easy-to-use web browser, the Icon keeps you connected. Email – Being in touch never has to stop when you have an Icon. When you're near a WiFi hotspot, you can easily send and receive email. Word processor – Take your documents with you, or write them on the road. The Icon's intuitive and user-friendly word processor works with Microsoft® Word compatible documents. Music Player – Put your favorite artists in the palm of your hand with the Icon MP3 player. You can store thousands of songs, categorized by artist, title, album, or genre.
Pod Cast –With the Icon, it's easy to download and listen to pod casts, or even record your own. Voice Recorder – You never have to forget a detail with the Icon voice recorder handy. The digital sound gives you a high quality recording of lectures, or your own personal memos. Journal – Record the events of your day through your calendar or post your entries to a web blog. Clock – Get the time of day at the push of a button. Stopwatch – When you need to time an event, the Icon provides a handy stopwatch. Calculator – Calculations are a snap with the Icon.
Specifications for the LevelStar . . .
LevelStar Icon
image of the levelstar PDA
The Icon with keyboard docking station
image of Levelstar docking station

Using PEAT software on a PDA

What is PEAT ?

PEAT is a handheld computer system that provides cueing and scheduling assistance for individuals with memory, attention, and cognitive disorders. PEAT users include patients with traumatic brain injury, stroke, hypoxia, neurodegenerative conditions including MS, Alzheimer's disease and attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

PEAT is an electronic memory notebook that includes familar notebook sections for calendar, names, and notes data with cross-reference links between them. PEAT's touch-sensitive screen can be used with the included stylus (pen) or a finger.

image of a PEAT enabled PDA

screenshot of the PEAT display

PEAT screenshot
another screenshot of the PEAT display

PEAT screenshot

More information about PEAT . . .

PDA Resources

Usability and Accessibility of PDAs in Education (Source:TechDis)

The following are the main sections of the project report:


Changes to the User Interface

Entering Text into a PDA

Using a PDA to support reading or referencing

Reflections on the results of the project

Case Studies


Further information

From Access IT

Personal digital assistants (PDAs) are small handheld computers, also known as palmtops, handheld PCs, or handhelds. PDAs are becoming increasingly popular, not solely for business and personal use but also for use in education. At all educational levels, PDAs are being used in the classroom for increasing students' organization, fostering collaboration, and maximizing portability of technology.
PDAs are well suited to these tasks. There are thousands of applications available, many of them free, that support a full spectrum of activities and academic disciplines. PDAs are also fiscally appealing to educational entities; most models are much cheaper than desktop computers.
In May 2001, The University of South Dakota (USD) became the first U.S. postsecondary institution to require the use of handheld computers by undergraduate students. Learn more about this mandate in the USD press release.

In many ways, PDAs provide benefits to individuals with disabilities. For example, people with learning disabilities or cognitive disabilities can benefit from PDAs' organizational and task management functions. Also, some people with mobility impairments can benefit from PDAs' small size, light weight, and portability. These latter characteristics have led vendors of augmentative communication devices to develop PDA-based aug-com products, such as the Enkidu Palmtop Impact and the Saltillo ChatPC series.

Despite these benefits, however, PDAs are currently not accessible to all users. Users generally interface with a PDA using a small stylus for input and a small screen for output. These devices are not accessible to individuals who are unable to use the stylus or who are unable to see the screen. A growing number of assistive technologies are available for PDAs, but these technologies are often developed for only one of the major operating systems (Palm OS or Microsoft PocketPC), not both. Also, due to limitations of memory and processing power, most PDA applications tend to be minimally featured compared to their desktop counterparts, usually at the expense of accessibility. For example, PDA operating systems have minimal or no built-in support for users who need larger fonts or alternate color schemes (though some solutions have emerged from third-party developers). Also, none of the PDA versions of major multimedia players currently supports closed captions.

For blind users, choices are beginning to emerge that allow access to PDAs using speech and/or Braille output. For example, Dolphin Pocket Hal is a full-fledged screen reader that runs on PocketPC devices. Freedom Scientific's PAC Mate product line also provides access to the PocketPC operating system, though it is a self-contained device, whereas the Dolphin product actually runs on standard over-the-counter PocketPC devices. There are currently no comparable products available for Palm OS. Other compact personal information managers are available, such as the Parrot Voice Mate and Pulse Data's BrailleNote and VoiceNote product lines. These products, however, don't provide full access to the features and functionality of mainstream PDA operating systems and would not suffice as an accommodation for a student who is required to use a specific PDA application.

Speech recognition and text-to-speech may ultimately be a viable solution for people who are blind, as well as other individuals who are unable to use either the stylus or an attached keyboard. Current speech input/output products for PDAs include Microsoft Voice Command and IBM Embedded Via-Voice. Both of these products, however, is command-based and does not support dictation or application-specific functionality beyond a basic core set of popular applications. Thus, their usefulness as an assistive technology is currently limited but is likely to improve, driven not by accessibility concerns but by the demands of an increasingly mobile global workforce (a good example of universal design).

Additional information is available at the accessibility pages for the leading PDA operating system vendors:



The world's first accessible Pocket PC device, now offers users an integrated braille option. The PAC Mate™ series of personal data assistants with a QWERTY keyboard features a speech-only unit (QX400), an integrated unit with 20 cells of braille (QX420) and an integrated unit with 40 cells of braille (QX440).

All the units provide the same direct access to everyday Windows-based desktop data and software applications, via ActiveSync, and use JAWS® for the speech output. Run Pocket PC versions of popular software programs to manage your information internally or sync up and share data with other devices. Surf the Internet and send and receive email with the addition of a modem.

Image of QX400 Image of QX 420Image of QX 440

Easy Link 12

Small And Stylish
Easy-Link 12 gives you full access to a PDA, mobile phone or laptop. The integrated Bluetooth connectivity
makes Easy-Link 12 an all round portable product for reading and writing e-mails, SMS messages,
documents or making notes while on the go. Because of its lightweight and compact design, Easy-Link 12
fits comfortably in a purse or pocket.

Access To Mobile Phones
The Easy-Link 12 Braille keyboard can also be integrated and connected with Optelecs Mobile
Speak* cell phone solution, allowing Braille reading and writing as well as successful interaction with cell
phone menus and applications.
* Mobile Speak is a trademark of Code Factory

Braille Display And Keyboard
The Easy-Link 12 is equipped with 6 ergonomically placed Braille input keys and 3 function keys for standard
Braille input, which provide easy access to your mobile phone, PDA or laptop. The Easy-Link 12 is the smallest
and lightest Braille display and note taking solution on the market. The Easy-Link 12 can be used as a refreshable
Braille terminal for a PDA, mobile phone or PC. The addition of two Braille navigation keys and a joystick
ensures effortless reading and writing in Braille.
Image of Easy Link

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