AAC ( Augmentative and Alternative Communication ): Augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) includes all forms of communication, except oral speech, that are used to express thoughts, needs, wants, and ideas. We all use AAC when we make facial expressions or gestures, use symbols or pictures, or write. For many people identified with a disability or degenerative disease, a manifestation of that disability is the impairment of their ability to effectively communicate in the manner of their non-disabled peers.
Communication is the main way in which human beings access and maintain independence and quality of life. It is crucial that we act as advocates for those who are faced with this deficit in communication and provide access to quality AAC devices.
There are multitudes of high and low-tech tools available for the benefit of AAC. However it is important to research each device fully and consider the person's personal strengths, weaknesses and environment prior to helping to make a choice in technology tools. Below is an example of one high-tech and one lo-tech tool for AAC that I have used with students who are significantly impacted by their disability.
|DynaVox EyeMax device|
|Step-by-Step communication switches|
Input Device: The term "input devices" is used to define external hardware components, used to feed data and control signals to a computer system. These devices, along with output devices, constitute the process of human-computer interaction. For people with disabilities, input devices are needed so that they can access not only computer use but also all the daily technologies we have all come to rely on as part of our daily function ( e.g. transportation systems, ATM machines, phones). Once again, in considering assistive technology choices, it is crucial that the person it is intended for is a part of the selection and evaluation of possible choices.
|NEC Versa LitePad|
LitePads These technological versions of notepads, provide support for people with a variety of processing deficits. It also can be used to support students who have limited ability to type.
The NEC Versa LitePad captures handwritten notes. The tablet supports handwriting recognition, allowing students to write directly on the screen,using a special pen designed for the LitePad. The tablet translates the handwriting into keyboard-style text. The person can handwrite, sketch, enter data e.g. math problems and start programs directly from the tablet screen. It can also be used as a laptop. Many of the students that I have worked with liked to use this type of technology for note taking in class. Also, it is helpful in creating essay drafts because students can organize their thoughts in their own writing and then produce a typewritten draft.
Zoomtext Zoomtext is a software program that can be added onto a computer or other devices where there is text involved, and it will enlarge the text so that it is easier to read. Not only is this beneficial to students and people with vision impairments, but it is also beneficial for people and students who have disabilities in which sensory problems manifest. The look of a few words on a page of text is often less overwhelming. Many of my students with autism will automatically change the font in their computers to the largest possible size. The accessibility of larger text is also achievable through the settings section of a PC.
This blog post only highlights four of the myriad of assistive technology choices available. Again, it is crucial that the choice of any device, tool, software or hardware should be made with the person who will be utilizing it, involved in the process. Assistive technology is as much based on personal preference as anything else. It is important to consider how much assistance it is really providing and to what degree will any certain assistive tool, promote the independence of the user. Marlene's Blog is the personal day-to-day accounts of a mother observing the communication awakening of her son. It is a great way to understand that people with severe disabilities hold within themselves a strong desire to be independent and their voice heard.