When I visited my college to set up my disability services file in April 2015 (read more about creating a disabilities file here), my mom and I decided to stop by the Microsoft store at a nearby mall. When we walked in, we saw a desktop computer on display that had a distinctive camera attached and a bunch of items around it. Naturally, I decided to start playing with it, and discovered that there were several ways I could use it for accessibility. That computer was the HP Sprout, and it has helped me so much as a college student with low vision. Read on for my review of the HP Sprout for accessibility.
What is the HP Sprout?
The HP Sprout is a desktop PC that runs Windows 10 software. It can do anything that a standard desktop computer can do, including run applications, access the internet, and help with communication. However, the HP Sprout has many additional hardware and software capabilities built in that make it awesome for creative projects, as well as many accessibility features. I purchased the HP Sprout in August 2015 from the Microsoft store near my college- read more about why I brought a desktop computer to college here. The current model of the HP Sprout, called the HP Sprout Pro, costs $4439 and can be found on the HP website here.
I remember when I first played with the HP Sprout at the Microsoft store, I was really interested with the scanning function and how I could use it to create accessible materials. I prefer to receive my schoolwork digitally and wanted to find an easy way to scan in assignments so my professors didn't have to think about making my assignments accessible- learn more about why I prefer my schoolwork digitally here. I also have used it to scan in photos and newspaper, which can be used in different applications- more on that in a minute.
Since there is a built-in 3D scanner, I can scan in other items besides paper. Most recently, I was working on a tactile model of a circuit using pipe cleaners and foam stickers and wanted to scan in what I had created- read more about creating tactile images here. All I had to do was set it down underneath the camera and it scanned in quickly and easily. I will add that room lighting can have some effect on the scanned image quality- when I was sitting in a room with natural light, the image came out a bit darker.
The TouchPad is a 22 inch mat that sits on the desk below the main computer screen. It is a touchscreen that can be used just like a second screen on the computer, but I frequently have the touchscreen option turned off. It's an essential component for the 3D scanner and the HP Sprout Workspace, though can be used with other apps as well. I most frequently use the TouchPad for viewing documents and textbooks while I work on another assignment on the main screen. Read more about using digital textbooks here.
The HP Magnifier feature is not often talked about, but it is worth its weight in gold. By using the 3D scanner and TouchPad, the HP Sprout can be used as a desktop video magnifier or CCTV. This is great for completing assignments on paper or for reading smaller text. Another interesting feature is that the camera can be switched so that someone could use the Magnifier feature to apply make-up or similar. Read more about another video magnifier called the E-Bot Pro here.
HP Sprout Workspace
Want to work on creative projects such as flyers, cards, or other annotations? The HP Sprout Workspace allows users to easily work on different projects and integrates in other functions from the device. One thing to note is that the scanner gave me a warning that it may cause issues for people with photosensitive epilepsy due to strobe lights. I get migraines from strobe lights and just closed my eyes while it scanned and I had no issues.
Windows 10 Accessibility
Even though it may seem like the HP Sprout is a very visual device, it still integrates well with Windows 10 accessibility features, and has all of the features available too. I write about the accessibility features I use in my post on Windows 10 accessibility for low vision here.
Microsoft Office Accessibility
I use Microsoft Office applications very frequently- I was even featured in a video produced by Microsoft. My HP Sprout allows me to scan in items from within the app, which helped me when I was scanning in music to make accessible- read more about creating accessible music here. I can also easily run several apps at the same time- my favorite combination is having PowerPoint on my main screen and taking notes in OneNote on the TouchPad. Read more about using OneNote here and creating accessible PowerPoint presentations here.
What I use it for
I use my HP Sprout every day and for several hours a day. Here are some examples of what I use it for:
- Taking online classes- read more about taking online classes here
- Managing my blog
- Completing classwork and homework as an IT student
- Making documents accessible
- Watching videos
- Researching information
Wondering how I can use the computer for several hours without light sensitivity? Read about ways to prevent eye strain from technology here.
I love my HP Sprout and highly recommend it to students who spend a lot of time on the computer. While the price can be a bit steep, people in vocational rehabilitation services may be able to receive financial assistance if the device will be used as assistive technology. Many colleges are also purchasing HP Sprouts for use in blended learning labs- my college is one of them. I hope that in the future, HP will release a more inexpensive version of the computer like they had before and that it will be more affordable for students. However, I think it's worth its weight in gold, and I can't imagine getting through school without it.