List of AAC devices

Image: AAC device

2019 Jun 07

Communication is something that most of us take for granted and language is the most important tool for communication and social exchange with other people. People with impaired language development can suffer severe consequences like isolation and reduced quality of life.

Augmentative and Alternative Communication devices (AAC devices) help to initiate communication, solidify it or lead it to alternative ways. These tools give speech or a means to communicate to people with disabilities. For them, Augmentative Alternative Communication makes a huge difference.

In this article we explore what AAC devices are, who can benefit from them, existing types and comprehensive lists of AAC devices, both dedicated and non-dedicated.

The need for communication in the digital era

Language is the chance for education, the opportunity to build relationships and to share experiences and feelings.

At the same time, the increasing digitization of our society in the most diverse areas increases the complexity and requirements for digital literacy to participate in daily life.

The fact remains that more than two billion people worldwide have different types and degrees of disability or age-related barriers that make it difficult, if not impossible, the use of information and communication technology.

Consequently, people with impaired language development or impaired motor and cognitive skills can suffer severe consequences like isolation and reduced quality of life.

But not everything is lost: fortunately, nowadays there is a wide range of tools that help to initiate communication, solidify it or lead it to alternative ways. This is materialized in the existence of Augmentative and Alternative Communication devices (AAC devices).

Alternative communication can give speech or a means to communicate to people with disabilities and, for them, Augmentative Alternative Communication makes a huge difference.

What are AAC devices

Looking for a definition for AAC devices, we can take that from the Wikipedia: “Augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) is an umbrella term that encompasses the communication methods used to supplement or replace speech or writing for those with impairments in the production or comprehension of spoken or written language.”

AAC devices are tools that can be required either for a temporary disability or a permanent one. The use of an AAC device can give the user the possibility to express herself. Friends, family and caregivers can also benefit from being able to communicate with the user.

In any of these cases, if you are working to help adults with an important communication impairment, you will need information about AAC devices. And today, fortunately, there are many to choose from.

Who Benefits From AAC Devices?

Some people use an AAC device temporarily after an accident or surgery. Others use these communication devices all the time to aid in talking or writing to friends, therapists or coworkers.

Summarizing, people who can benefit from communication devices include people affected by any of the following conditions:

  • autism
  • aphasia
  • cerebral palsy
  • stroke
  • Down syndrome
  • paralyzed
  • handicapped

Or, generally, any other problem that make them struggle with speech and communication.

What Should You Look For In AAC Devices For Adults?

Here are three aspects that you should not overlook when choosing an AAC device:

  • The user’s communication needs, abilities and preferences. The options range from low-tech devices such as static communication boards to high tech systems such as dedicated devices or apps for tablets or smartphones.

  • The physical situation of the user. There are highly portable units that are suitable for some more mobile users and devices that are better suited for wheelchair or paralized users. There are also systems that offer several modes of access that may be appropriate for users with degenerative conditions.

  • The user’s capability for learning and her perceptual skills. The user should be able to learn easily to use the device to avoid frustration and eventual rejection of the chosen solution.

Types Of AAC Devices

AAC devices can be divided into two types: dedicated and non-dedicated.

  • Dedicated devices are those built with the only purpose of providing communication means to those who need this kind of support. They are only AAC devices and manufactured for sturdiness and reliability. The higher-end devices in this category are built on fully functional computers.

  • Non-dedicated devices are those mainstream electronic devices such as a smartphone, an iPad or a laptop, to which AAC software or applications (apps) have been added.

The widespread introduction of tablet computers has meant a revolution for the AAC industry. A number of AAC applications such as Proloquo2Go, and Touch Chat, have been developed, bringing with them a perfectly valid solution with a relatively low cost, widespread availability and attractiveness of the devices.

It has to be noted, though, that not all AAC applications are complete or appropriate. The best of them, like Proloquo2Go and Touch Chat provide complete symbol vocabularies to cover all parts of speech. Other applications are often just collections of images.

List of AAC devices

Talking button

A very simple solution for people with very few motor skills is a simple Talking Button, to share experiences at the touch of a button. One or more sequences can be recorded by parents or caregivers.

Dedicated AAC devices

The best and most complete are:

  • Tobii Dynavox
  • Logan ProxTalker Modular AAC Device Package
  • Hip Talk Plus Communicator
  • Beamz Interactive Music System
  • MegaBee Assisted Communication and Writing Tablet
  • Pal Pads Pressure Activated Switches
  • Pocket Go-Talk 5-Level Communication Device
  • The MegaBee Assisted Communication and Writing Tablet
  • Enabling Devices Tactile Symbol Communicator
  • GOTALK 9+
  • FAB Frenchay Alphabet Board
  • Lightwriter SL40
  • Gooshy Step Talk Communicator
  • Big Talk Assistive Technology Communicator
  • GoTalk Express 32 / Advanced Communication Aid
  • Ablenet’s QuickTalker Freestyle

Generic iOS or Android tablets

These can be mostly iOS (Apple) or Android based tablets or smartphones, that can install apps that use picture, sound and language. Some of the best and most popular apps for AAC purposes are the following:

  • Grid for iPad
  • Grid 3 for WindowsGoTalk Now
  • Metacom
  • Predictable
  • Tobii Dynavox app
  • SonoFlex
  • iCommunicate for iPad
  • QuickTalk AAC
  • Proloquo2Go
  • TouchChat

Ways to access the AAC devices

In this list we can also consider those devices or apps that allow complete access to tablets, smartphones or other electronic devices even to those with motor disabilities that make it very difficult for them to operate the devices adequately. We can count in this case with

Eye control

The eye control technology uses near-infrared light. By using eye tracking you can do without a mouse and keyboard and control the computer with your eyes.

Mouse replacement devices as access to the computer

Several companies are developing commercially available switch access for the iPad and Android tablets.

Maybe the best options in this field right now are:

  • Mouse4all: allows access to Android devices to those unable to manipulate them by touching the screen.
  • Tecla: allows an individual to interact with their iOS and Android devices, computers, and smart home systems, hands-free with ability switches.

Also, special keyboards, joysticks, a specially designed oral mouse, and various sensors such as an accelerometer can serve as a replacement for a mouse or keyboard and give people with barriers access to digital communication or workplace support.