It’s estimated that there are 48.9 million people in the United States that have some kind of disability. Yes, our smartphones are loaded with basic accessibility features including hearing support, voice over, shortcuts and various controls, but often it’s the simpler technology that families seek when a family member has Down syndrome, autism, blindness and various other developmental and physical disabilities. One of these technologies seen most often in searches includes MP3 players, yet there is no simple answer or guide to help inform buying decisions or make it easy to decide which version is best.
It’s been years since the iPod shuffle was discontinued, however, it was easily one of the simplest choices for developmentally disabled customers. The lack of screen prevented users from accidentally changing settings, or pressing the wrong buttons with the intent to simply play their favorite songs. Many folks with disabilities struggle when working basic technologies without experiencing frustration, and families are often leaned on to load, use and often revert settings to working order.
What do you need to look for when purchasing an MP3 player?
- Minimal buttons – This is one of the simplest ways to narrow down your search. There are so many options out there that have ten buttons, sometimes even more, compared to the five that are necessary to operate on the simplest of players.
- Fair price point – There are quite a few costs associated with MP3s, and the actual equipment doesn’t need to be one of them. Headphones can cost anywhere from $10 – $200 or more, and downloadable songs can cost anywhere from $0.30 – $1.00 per song. There are plenty of options within your range you can try without breaking the bank.
- Reliable – Be sure to read the reviews. Choose a player with great reviews, specifically from others that have experience using it with disabilities of any sort.
- Access from afar – Need to help by downloading or purchasing songs when you’re away? Be sure to pick an item that allows you to help from a distance, a technology that can sync automatically and remotely.
- Simple instructions/easy set-up – This alone can be a nightmare if you don’t choose the right technology for you and your loved ones. Downloading songs isn’t always straightforward, so be sure to choose a technology that brags about their ease of use.
Now that we’ve outlined the important aspects of decision making, let’s break down our favorites and why:
This is one of our favorites and easily one of the most usable devices on the market. Exclusively made for Spotify customers, this is the first device specifically created for offline use with the most popular streaming service in the market. Easily and wirelessly downloadable from the Mighty app, it’s Bluetooth compatible for headphones, lightweight, and only requires a Spotify subscription – no song purchases necessary, only a monthly cost of $9.99.
Price point: $85.99 + monthly subscription
Are you a gamer?
Known for its ease of use, this option is well priced and simple. With only six buttons and a long-lasting battery, it provides 18 hours of playback at a time, so no need to charge mid-day. With a USB plug for easy song transfer, this option also offers the ability to listen to FM radio. Perfect for those that aren’t familiar with devices like this and are responsible for loading songs on for a loved one, you’re able to transfer many versions of downloads including WAV, WMA, AAC (and more) without those annoying error messages. Lastly, it’s PC compatible for those of you without an Apple product in the home.
Price point: 8gb – $29.99
This option is one of your most affordable, making it an easier purchase. With its long lasting battery, you won’t need to worry about a constant need to charge the device, or having to check on it often. In addition, the high sensitivity buttons make it easier to choose songs, rewind, or fast forward. Much like the old iPod Shuffle, this option only has the five necessary buttons to operate, mitigating frustrations and incidental setting changes.
Price point: 16gb – $19.97
Although this can be a bit more complex than the above options, Apple is a star when it comes to including accessibility features such as accessibility shortcuts, magnifier, hearing aids, touch accommodations, and guided access. This option may not suit all disabilities, however, its larger screen and magnifier would work well for those battling with cerebral palsy and other disabilities that make the smaller devices difficult. We’d be amiss if we didn’t include this option given its superior technology.
Price point: 32gb – $199, 128gb – $299
Originally made specifically for patients with Alzheimer’s, this easy-to-use pre-loaded option is best for those living with severe Down syndrome or autism and those who are best suited for a one-button system. You do have the option to download additional songs onto the device using a USB cable, but be warned: it does not offer you the option to change songs, skip ahead, or re-order songs from the device, so be sure to add them in the order in which you’d like to listen. An unusual device, but perfect for some that need simplicity over options.
Price point: 4gb – $149.99
Our goal is to aid in making your buying decision much easier. Though varied, these items are perfect for a range of disabilities and cover a number of needs that are often hard to find in the market. We hope at least one of these options will provide you and your loved one with exactly what you need to listen to the gift of music seamlessly!