Angela Moorad, MS, CCC-SLP. Over 33 years experience in AAC. OMazing Kids AAC and app consulting. Creator of several AAC Feature Matching resources (https://omazingkidsllc.com/omazing-kids-aac-resource-links/). Includes info about unique features to support Gestalt Language Processors
This feature matching resource includes information about the following options:
• CoughDrop – Sequoia board set – multi platform
• PODD for Grid for iPad
• simPODD – iPad
• TD Snap PODD – iPad
• Voco Chat in Grid for iPad
• PODD for Grid 3 – Windows
• PODD for Mind Express 5 – Windows
• TD Snap PODD – Windows
• Voco Chat in Grid 3 – Windows
There are 122 rows in the chart. But it’s super easy to use the “search” option to find what you want quickly.
This resource includes free access to over 3 hours of unlisted YouTube videos where I highlight some of the most unique features in each option and discuss the flexibility in customization, options for alternative access, etc…
Why this might be helpful to you is I have done all the heavy lifting of digging through websites and deep into app settings, testing everything out extensively and then distilling all that info into one PDF with all of the features that you’d need to compare all of these options.
This is a VERY deep dive beyond just vocabulary organization… it’s also an in depth look at the flexibility or limitations of the app platforms, customization and alternative access options plus includes detailed info about three different Bluetooth switch interfaces (Blue2, iSwitch & Cosmo).
You can search to find exactly what you’re looking for and can copy wording from this chart and paste it into your AAC reports to save time.
** All info is comprehensive, 100% up to date and verified by app developers **
I will be maintaining and updating this chart to help meet the need for current and comprehensive info to be used in feature matching.
Includes info about features in these particular apps that may be helpful as folks are exploring ways to modify AAC for Gestalt Language Processors.
I made this video to share with someone in the AAC for the SLP Facebook group who was looking for an option for Punjabi & English bilingual AAC and decided to post it here too in case it would be helpful to anyone else. Note: I checked and Punjabi wasn’t listed as a language in any of the apps from Avaz: https://avazapp.com/products/avaz-aac-app/.
When I set Google as the preferred speech engine I was able to find several adult female and a couple of adult male synthesized Punjabi voices. At the time that I posted this I did not find any Punjabi synthesized voices available on the iPad.
CoughDrop uses Google Translate to create the Punjabi translation so it would be very important to have a native speaker of that language review the translation, content and symbols for accuracy & cultural relevance.
Instead of using the Coughdrop keyboard you’ll need to install the Samsung Punjabi-English system keyboard and then program the keyboard button on the home page to use that instead (:native-keyboard has to be in the Speak – Sound box & you toggle on using the native keyboard under preferences).
You’ll need to install these two languages in the Samsung settings (General Management – Language). You add the board for each language to the sidebar to create a way to toggle between them. It took some trial and error to figure it out but is doable.
How did I know that Punjabi was an option on Android? I took a really deep dive into exploring voices and languages available in iOS, Android, Amazon Fire and Windows when I created the AAC Apps and Features At-a-Glance (Single Page Handouts): https://bit.ly/AAC-At-a-Glance. That 90 page PDF resource was inspired by the numerous requests that I’ve received for simple “at a glance” info about features in AAC apps and single page handouts that could be used with parents, caregivers and anyone involved in the AAC decision making process. More info: https://omazingkidsllc.com/2022/11/20/aac-apps-and-features-at-a-glance-single-page-handouts/
Did you know that several AAC apps have a way to add sign language symbols and some have a way to play an ASL video or GIF? It’s cool to have these options to meet very unique needs.
As with anything that I share… there is no “one size fits all” to AAC. Some individuals may prefer just to sign and might use text messaging or hand writing when communicating with those who don’t know sign language. For those who want to use AAC, some users may prefer the regular symbols in that AAC system, some may prefer text-based AAC, some may prefer that ASL letter symbols be added to a keyboard, some may prefer GIFs or videos of signs, some may prefer static pics of signs, some may prefer a combination of options, etc…
So it is very important to include that individual in deciding what may be helpful for them.
This post is purely just to share info about options. I’m in the unique position of having access not just to almost every AAC app but also various extra symbol sets within them. I feel compelled to share info about what I’m able to find in these apps since that often isn’t fully documented in the description in the App Store or on the various companies’ websites.
Note: Most apps allow you to import pics from your Camera Roll. I often take a screenshot of a symbol that I may need and use it in another app. Most AAC apps also offer a way for folks to share things that they have customized directly with another person via AirDrop, email, DropBox, Google Drive, etc…
My focus in this post is on AAC apps that offer sign language symbols as part of their built in (or an add on) symbol library or offer a way to play ASL videos or GIFs and/or offer a way to download premade boards from a website or public online sharing area. This post is primarily about iOS apps but a few are available on other platforms (Android and/or Windows)
AAC apps are constantly changing as new features are added. The info was accurate at the time of this post. I may occasionally update it in the future.
I did not notice any sign language symbols when editing in the iOS or Android versions of this app. This seemed odd since I know that other apps that use SymbolStix have some. But the way that you have to tap to see individual symbols vs. being able to scroll through a large list made it more time consuming to look. So it’s possible that I just didn’t find them. The keyboard buttons are not editable and this app doesn’t offer a way to link a button to play an ASL video saved on that device.
Update 2/10/23: Avaz now has a way to add a GIF to a button. See their video above ⬆️ . I almost always edit Avaz on my iPad vs. iPhone. I couldn’t find a way to save a GIF to my Camera Roll while on the GIPHY website via the Safari browser but was able to save when using the GIPHY app on my iPad. See my video below ⬇️
Sign language symbols are available when editing but neither seemed to be as complete of a library as I had seen in other apps that use these symbol sets. I did not find anything in their Learning Grids sharing area related to ASL or sign language. The keyboard buttons are not editable and this app doesn’t offer a way to link a button to play an ASL video saved on that device.
CoughDrop can be used on almost any device on almost any platform. It has a unique built in option to include GIPHY ASL sign GIFs when searching for symbols while editing. You can search out in their Find a Board area to see examples of how other folks have used this: https://app.mycoughdrop.com/search/any/ASL. I found it visually overstimulating to have several ASL GIF videos playing simultaneously on a page so please keep that in mind when considering this option.
For those who purchase the SymbolStix add-on that allows SymbolStix sign language symbols to be available when editing. What’s interesting is the PCS symbol add-on did not appear to include PCS Sign Language symbols. I searched for several but didn’t find them. It’s possible that I might have overlooked them. The keyboard page is editable. This app doesn’t offer a way to link a button to play an ASL video saved on that device.
GoTalk Now Plus
GoTalk Now Plus includes the SymbolStix symbol library. When editing this includes access to the SymbolStix sign language symbols. This app offers several different PCS symbol add-ons but PCS Sign Language symbols isn’t one of the options. They also offer a METACOM symbols add-on but I don’t have that so I don’t know whether or not that includes the METACOM sign language symbols.
GoTalk Now Plus is unique in allowing you to have several symbols and/or photos on one button. You can program the button to play a video stored on that iPad. This would allow you to link buttons to sign language video clips. Sign language GIFs could be use if those were converted into videos. This iPad-only app uses the iOS device keyboard. Unfortunately I haven’t found an iOS alternative keyboard that is still available that offers the ASL alphabet symbols on the keys.
Grid for iPad / Grid 3
The SymbolStix library includes the SymbolStix sign language symbols when editing. This app also has PCS symbols but that didn’t appear to include the PCS Sign Language symbols.
I searched the Online Grids sharing area and found an ASL Letter Explorer & Text Writer grid set available for download: https://grids.thinksmartbox.com/en/tt-9/98e8ea32-146c-4554-b482-3988248bf294. It is in QWERTY layout and includes word prediction. I adjusted the settings to just have text show up on the word prediction. If you want to have symbol supported word prediction you will need to adjust the font size and type of symbols to allow the symbols to be large enough to be recognizable.
Grid 3 on a Windows device supports use of a button command to play a video saved on that device and there is a Music and Videos grid set available for download from Online Grids. But I haven’t figured out whether or not it’s possible to program a button in one of the symbol-based AAC grid sets to pop up to play a video and then snap back to that page (vs. having it navigate to the separate Music and Videos grid set). The ability to do that would be helpful for being able to link an ASL sign language video to a specific button in an AAC grid set (like I was able to do in GoTalk Now, TouchChat with WordPower & Niki Talk 2 Pro). I’ll update this section if I figure out a way to do this. Unfortunately playing a video isn’t available as an option on Grid for iPad.
LAMP Words for Life
This iPad-only app has its own multi-meaning symbols that are an integral part of the design. It doesn’t include sign language symbols and doesn’t offer a way to link a button to play an ASL video saved on that device. LAMP Words for Life is also available on the company’s SGDs. It is been quite awhile since I’ve used one of those so I’m not sure if it would offer any features related to this.
Mind Express 5
Mind Express 5 software can be used on Windows devices. The SymbolStix symbol library includes the SymbolStix sign language symbols. A PCS symbol library is available but I didn’t see any PCS sign language symbols when editing. METACOM symbols appear to be available as an add on but I don’t have that symbol library so I don’t know if it includes the METACOM sign language symbols.
It is possible to program buttons to play an ASL sign video or GIF in a popup but it requires some knowledge of advanced programming. I’m still learning the ME5 software so I was very appreciative of Fio Quinn sharing her expertise in a couple of tutorial videos that she made and shared with me. Be watching for more info about Mind Express 5 in an upcoming resource. I’ve been very impressed by how many options that it offers in customizing to meet very specific needs.
This app uses ARASAAC symbols & Les Pictogrammes symbols. I didn’t see sign language symbols in either within the app. But the app does offer the option to program a button to play a video from the iPad Camera Roll. This would allow you to link a button to play an ASL video. This iPad-only app uses the iOS device keyboard. Unfortunately I haven’t found an iOS alternative keyboard that is still available that offers the ASL alphabet symbols on the keys.
Although this iOS Universal app uses SymbolStix I didn’t find SymbolStix sign language symbols when editing. It doesn’t offer a way to link a button to play an ASL video saved on that device.
The SymbolStix library includes the SymbolStix sign language symbols when editing. The keyboard area is not editable. This iOS Universal app can also use the iOS device keyboard but I haven’t found an iOS alternative keyboard that is still available that offers the ASL alphabet symbols on the keys. It doesn’t offer a way to link a button to play an ASL video saved on that device.
Although this iPad-only app uses SymbolStix I didn’t find SymbolStix sign language symbols when editing. It doesn’t offer a way to link a button to play an ASL video saved on that device.
Speak for Yourself
This app uses Smarty Symbols. I didn’t see any sign language symbols included in that library. It doesn’t offer a way to link a button to play an ASL video saved on that device. This iOS Universal app uses the iOS device keyboard. Unfortunately I haven’t found an iOS alternative keyboard that is still available that offers the ASL alphabet symbols on the keys.
Talk Suite Pro
This app uses their own unique Persona symbols. I didn’t see any sign language symbols included in that library. It doesn’t offer a way to link a button to play an ASL video saved on that device. The app’s keyboard can’t be edited to add ASL symbols. This iPad-only app also uses the iOS device keyboard. Unfortunately I haven’t found an iOS alternative keyboard that is still available that offers the ASL alphabet symbols on the keys.
TD Snap AAC
This app is available for the iPad and Windows devices. When editing you can have access to the PCS Sign Language symbol library. These appear to be a mix of American Sign Language and Signed Exact English symbols. You’ll need to make sure you have downloaded it and you can drag it to the top of the symbols list if you want to prioritize those symbols coming up first in a search. They also offer METACOM symbols as an add-on via in-app purchase. That includes sign language symbols. I wasn’t able to find details about these but METACOM symbols were designed in and are primarily used in Germany so these might be German Sign Language.
I checked all of the various pagesets including the add-ones for PODD and Gateway. The PCS Sign Language symbols and METACOM symbols (if purchased) were available when editing regardless of the pageset.
Neither version of TD Snap offers a way to link a button to play an ASL video saved on that device.
When I searched on Pageset Central these two things came up that folks created with sign language symbols and shared:
It includes an Alphabet and Numbers page with ASL symbols on the buttons. The Keyboard is a regular QWERTY keyboard.
Core Words ASL (just a page… not a full Pageset. So I imported it and added it within Eli’s ASL Pageset): http://bit.ly/3RjXmo1
In order to get these from Pageset Central you need to have a MyTobiiDynavox account (https://www.mytobiidynavox.com), sign into it, and then find these two things in Pageset Central (these the direct links above) and tap “Add to My Stuff” to add it to your MyTobiiDynavox account. Then while in TD Snap you’ll be able to create a new User with the Eli’s ASL Pageset:
TouchChat with WordPower
When editing this iOS Universal app you’ll have access to two different sign language SymbolStix symbol libraries: American Sign Language & Australian Sign Language.
TouchChat with WordPower also offers the option to link a button to play a video stored on that device. This video shows that being used to play an ASL sign language video. For multiple meaning words with different signs depending on the context you could link to a page that provides a button for each.
The same pageset options may be available in the company’s line of SGDs but it has been awhile since I’ve used those so I don’t know how the features may vary on those.
Twinkl Symbols for AAC
Twinkl Symbols for AAC is an iOS Universal app that includes British Sign Language symbols (BSL). The Type 2 Talk keyboard area in this app uses the iOS device keyboard. Unfortunately I haven’t found an iOS alternative keyboard that is still available that offers the ASL alphabet symbols on the keys.
The very affordable simple Verbal Me app offers several different premade sign language boards within the app + the option to create custom pages that can include short videos. I’ve used this as a way to create a simple board with ASL videos. https://apps.apple.com/us/app/verbal-me/id495853688
ALICE with ASL & Text
Pre-recorded content is available in spoken English with ASL or English subtitles allowing users to choose the communication mode they feel most comfortable with. It’s easy for users to find their desired messages quickly with the organized and categorized library of content and search function. The app includes over 30 common general and medical phrases with interactive responses – over 130 unique videos are included in this app. Users choose a phrase they want to communicate and play the video for the other person. Depending on the video content, either person can choose a response. Some additional communication may be prompted via other means – paper/pen, speaking or gesturing. More info: https://access.llc/alice-app/. ALICE with ASL & Text, https://apps.apple.com/app/id1467049575 (iOS Universal)
I did a screen recording of the introduction within the app since I couldn’t find any videos of it online:
Unfortunately the unique Sign2TXT AAC app with sign language symbols by Angie Craft (https://appsto.re/us/NJMz0.i) disappeared from the App Store a few years ago (even gone from the Purchased area). See the website for more info: http://www.handcraftedasl.com/sign2txt/. You can also see it archived on AppAdvice: https://appadvice.com/app/sign2txt/879126759. I had a couple of Deaf students/patients/clients who did really well with that app. The ability to search for signs by hand shape was very unique. I’m including it in this post in the hopes that the app eventually returns or that this might inspire another app developer to create something or existing app developers to add similar capabilities to their AAC apps.
Have a question, found a broken link or know of another AAC option that includes sign language symbols or can support use of ASL videos or GIFs? The best way to reach me is via Facebook messaging over on my OMazing Kids page: https://www.facebook.com/OMazingKidsAAC/
It has been a pleasant surprise to discover how many of my Android AAC and AAC-related apps can be installed via the Google Play App Store and used on my Pixelbook Go Chromebook.
Of course a Chromebook is not my top pick for an AAC device but I get pretty frequent questions about AAC options for it.
Here are some AAC apps that you *might* be able to use on a Chromebook while working towards getting that student a more portable & durable AAC device. The most robust apps are denoted in bold with an (*)
Note: These all work on my Pixelbook Go. These apps may or may not be an option for your model of Chromebook. The Google Play App Store shows compatibility info. It seems to vary quite a bit depending on the type and brand of device.
• Acapela TTS (this is where you can purchase high quality Acapela synthesized voices. It was cool that the voices that I had already purchased were also available for use on my Chromebook without having to repurchase them. They worked within several AAC apps. I wish Apple offered this type of option for purchasing voices.)
• AAC Keyboard with Friends
• All the FeelZzz
• AsTeRICS Grid
• Avaz (*)
• Card Talk
• CoreVoice (*)
• CoughDrop (*)
• Deaf Note
• Emergency Chat
• I Can Communicate!
• Kids Story Builder
• Niki Talk
• Passy-Muir Trach Tools
• Patient Communicator
• Search on ARASAAC
• Speak It
• Speech Assistant AAC (*)
• Talking Button
• Twinkl Symbols
• Weave Chat
• Yes / No Button
• YesNo AAC
Most of these are affordable or free apps. Info about them and links can be found in the Basic Feature Chart for Affordable and Free AAC apps & AAC-Related Apps (iOS, Android Google Play, Amazon Fire, Windows + a few Web-Based options): https://bit.ly/BasicAffordableAACchart.
In depth info about the Android versions of Avaz, CoreVoice, CoughDrop and Speech Assistant AAC can be found in the Feature Matching Chart for Robust Android AAC Apps (Android Google Play & Amazon Fire):https://bit.ly/RobustAndroidAACappChart.
This 90 page PDF resource was inspired by the numerous requests that I’ve received for simple “at a glance” info about features in AAC apps and single page handouts that could be used with parents, caregivers and anyone involved in the AAC decision making process.
Table of Contents:
A Preview Sample PDF is available for this resource on TPT. It includes the Table of Contents and a few sample pages.
This resource includes:
• A hyperlinked Table of Contents to jump straight to a page. Tap in the top left corner to jump back to the Table of Contents (when being used digitally)
• 11 Features At-a-Glance Handouts
• 36 AAC App Summary At-a-Glance Handouts (see Table of Contents for a list)
• 12 Gestalt Language Processing & AAC Handouts
• 4 Just-a-List Lists of Free AAC apps Handouts
• 2 unlisted videos (5 min demo of how to view 2 pages side-by-side using Split View & a 20 min Resource Overview)
• Links to additional resources
• How to contact me with questions (includes my email address exclusive to TPT)
These will be helpful on either side of an AAC evaluation that involves feature matching and trials of a few options:
• Beforehand to help simplify the process of knowing which apps and/or features you might want to consider during an AAC eval
• Afterwards to place at-a-glance sheets side by side as a reminder of apps that were included in the trials and help simplify the process of deciding which ones warrant a longer term trial or which one might be selected for submission in a funding request.
• These can also be helpful during the feature matching process to help provide simple explanations about some of the features and why they might be important.
It would be impossible to include all of the features in a particular AAC app on a single page handout. These are just “highlights”. These handouts should be used alongside (not instead of) in-depth up to date feature matching resources.
This resource is optimized for both printed and digital use:
• Print a single page first to see if you need to choose “shrink to fit” on your printer. Print pages and place them side-by-side to compare features or apps.
• In order to keep the aesthetic of single page handouts the pages are not numbered. If you want to add page numbers, either write them or use a PDF editing app to add them.
• The Table of Contents has hyperlinks to tap a page number to jump straight to that page. Tap the top left corner on any page to return to the Table of Contents.
• There a few other underlined hyperlinks in this resource to take you straight to additional information. I purposefully did not include App Store links since those can vary by country and aren’t always redirected.
• There are several options to view two pages side-by-side to compare features or apps:
• Use two iPads or tablets or open on two windows on a laptop.
• On iPadOS 13.0 or later, save the PDF in two different PDF viewer apps and use Split View to view them. The demo video included in the resource shows how.
• The PDF Expert and GoodNotes 5 apps offer a way to view two documents side-by-side within that one app
Looking for in-depth info about features AAC apps? Check out these resources:
• AAC Feature Matching Resource Bundle (includes all three, save 10%): https://bit.ly/aacFeatureMatchingBundle. If you are looking to purchase resources for several staff / team members, take a look at the Multiple Licenses discount (saves 20%)
Have questions? The best way to reach me with any questions is via messaging on the OMazing Kids Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/OMazingKidsAAC/. That way AAC related messages don’t get lost among the spam in my e-mail.
Jennifer from N of 1 recently shared a story in a Facebook group about how a child used Google Maps to communicate. Mind blown 🤯 I had several students/patients/clients who LOVED maps, addresses, countries and flags. At the time I knew that those served a purpose for self-regulation and pleasure. It makes my heart sad though to think that I may have missed communication via what they were looking up on Google Maps or Google Earth. There are definitely times I wish I had a time portal to go back with knowledge that I have now.
This got me digging through all of my AAC apps to see which ones either have a button action or opening a website URL to allow Google Maps to be opened within the app and/or that app supports use of Split View or Slide Over to allow this. If you have a specific model of iPad Pro or iPad Air with M1 chip you might also be able to use othermultitasking options in Stage Manager (my iPad Pro 9.7” is still on iOS 10.3 so that’s too old for the most current versions of most AAC apps or to use Stage Manager)
CoughDrop (in the app: via URL; used in Safari browser: could also use Split Screen)
Dialogue AAC (specific button action for this or via Split Screen)
GoTalk Now (via URL)
LAMP Words for Life (specific button action for this)
Niki Talk 2 Pro (via URL)
Proloquo2Go (via Split Screen)
Speech Assistant AAC (via Split Screen)
TouchChat with WordPower (specific button action for this or via Split Screen)
Here are screenshots showing the two different ways to do this in TouchChat with WordPower:
The easiest option was Split Screen and it allows Google Maps and the AAC app to be on the screen at the same time but only a few AAC apps support use of Split Screen. Split Screen will alter the size of the buttons in that AAC app so it might be tricky when using large grid sizes.
The second easiest option was the specific button action within the three AAC apps by PRC-Saltillo.
Apps that allow you to program a button to open a website URL were a bit finicky / tricky to get it to work. I’ll be adding tips in the feature matching resources.
Another alternative is to use a second iPad or tablet or laptop with Google Maps / Google Earth that can be viewed alongside their AAC device or iPad or tablet being used for AAC.
In-depth details about this will be coming soon. I’m working on this month’s update for my AAC feature matching resources and am adding that info in two new rows. So be watching for it in a few days.
I’m exploring these as ways to supplement (not replace) how an individual is already using Google Maps. It’s likely that a Gestalt Language Processor already has a well established “gestalt” for how they like to do that but it’s likely that adding this to their AAC system might be something that would spark interest and resonate with them.
I’d only explore this for individuals who have an interest in this. There is no “one size fits all” to anything about AAC. I’m NOT suggesting that we need to add access to Google Maps for every AAC user or even for every GLP who uses AAC.
Guided Access will likely block these methods of using more than one app on an iPad.
AAC Feature Matching Resource Bundle (includes all three, save 10%): https://bit.ly/aacFeatureMatchingBundle. If you are looking to purchase resources for several staff / team members, take a look at the Multiple Licenses discount (saves 20%)
Thinking about developing a new AAC app? I do quite a bit of beta testing and am asked pretty frequently for my feedback on AAC app development. Here are my thoughts…
The top 3 needs that I see for AAC apps:
1. Relevant: There is a need for robust AAC apps in a wider variety/diversity of languages and dialects (content, symbols & voices). Ideally these need to be developed in conjunction with native speakers of that language to insure accuracy and cultural relevance of the content, symbols and voices.
2. Portable: There is a need for more AAC apps to be usable on an iPhone & Android phone. I get numerous requests every month for info about the options. Sadly more than half of the robust iOS symbol-based AAC apps can only be used on an iPad. I had several older kids, teens and young adults that preferred the portability and the “look” of pocket-sized AAC on their phone. Some used it as an alternative to their larger device. Others used it as their primary AAC.
Some app developers claim that it would be impossible to offer their app on an iPhone because it would “mess with the motor plan” or “the buttons would be too small”. Hmm… somehow Speak for Yourself did this way back in 2016 and their app has 120 buttons per page and is a “motor planning” based app. In the years since then I’ve seen several posts from AAC users, parents, SLPs, teachers, etc. who all appreciate the flexibility that this offers. The screen on the largest iPhones are only a couple of inches smaller than an iPad Mini. Even on my iPhone 11 with its 6.1” screen I’m able to use this app well enough to do some modeling and use it all the time to take a look at the Settings area to answer questions about the app when I don’t have my iPad with me.
Read these posts on the Speak for Yourself website: https://speakforyourself.org/does-aac-button-size-really-matter/ & https://speakforyourself.org/tiny-speak-coming-soon-iphones/. A quote from the second post: “The buttons are small, BUT they are twice the size of the keyboard buttons that we all use, including our students who flawlessly use mom or dad’s phone to search for videos on YouTube. Many of our users will be able to access Tiny Speak for Yourself (Tiny SfY), but even if they are not able to access it, having the app on an iPhone also puts the ability to model seamlessly into the hands of parents, professionals…and siblings. That may be the biggest game changer of Tiny SfY.”
Look at the data and the button size comparisons. Look at the pictures and video of it in use. Read the linked blog posts about the impact of having this option.
It’s doable. Not saying it’s easy for developers to reprogram an app to make it iOS Universal. I’m sure it takes a lot of work. But if you listen to your customers it’s one of the biggest needs. So listen, roll up your sleeves and make it happen.
3. Affordable: We need more robust AAC options that can be used on the more affordable tablets (Amazon Fire & Android). I’ve been getting numerous messages from folks who don’t have access to getting an AAC device funded or are tired of professionals saying their child isn’t “ready”. In these instances the total cost of an Amazon Fire tablet or basic Android tablet + case + AAC app = affordable enough for the parent to purchase it themselves. Not everyone can afford an iPad.
Here are my other thoughts based on over 30 years of experience in AAC and using lots of AAC apps across all of the platforms:
• Any new AAC app needs to support robust communication for a wide variety of functions. There are already several simple choice making apps on the market. Robust AAC contains many different types of words (verbs, nouns, pronouns, adjectives, adverbs, prepositions, conjunctions, articles/determiners & interjections), includes Core Vocabulary & Fringe Vocabulary (relevant to that user’s culture, interests and needs), includes Prestored Phrases (to support quick participation), Word Forms (verb tenses, word endings), allows editing to add new vocabulary and customize existing vocabulary, and a way to backup customizations.
Most robust AAC apps offer a Search/Word Finder. The lack of a Search/Word Finder can be a significant issue for those supporting lots of AAC users across multiple systems since they may not use that particular app everyday.
There needs to be a balance between safeguards to help insure an AAC app is used as designed to provide robust AAC & flexibility in editing. When AAC apps are too restrictive in editing it makes it difficult to make sure the content and symbols are culturally relevant, honor that user’s and their family’s customs and religious beliefs and that they are not racially biased. It’s difficult to do that when much/most of the app can’t be edited.
There also needs to be flexibility to allow editing in order to allow use of robust elements like verb tenses and word endings even if that individual is using a low cell count grid size in order to support access for fine motor and visual needs.
• Take a good look at the major AAC apps on the market and determine what specific features your new app would offer that are not already available.
• Get input from AAC users regarding features they think would be helpful.
• Do lots of beta testing to insure the app is intuitive / easy to use.
• You should only offer an AAC app that is truly worth having and meets needs. There are several free or very cheap AAC apps on the market. But you rarely see them mentioned or recommended because they are so poorly designed.
• Offer a fully featured free trial for at least 30 days (preferably at least 60 days) & include access to any extra pagesets / vocab files / grid sets / board sets during that trial. This access needs to be available on the device that the individual might actually be using (as an example, having a free trial on Windows isn’t really going to be totally helpful if they will be using an iPad). SLPs/SLTs and others supporting AAC use can typically get access to the full apps to trial but there are often waiting lists and not everyone has access to an SLP or access to getting an AAC eval. (Note: The various app platforms pose barriers to app developers for some of the options to offer free trials or free promo codes so there are constraints to what they can do regarding this. There would also be a need for companies licensing voices and premium vocab files to allow for these types of free trials)
• Offer purchasing flexibility. Subscriptions offer easier access for individuals (but don’t work well for schools, state run facilities and funding sources). The option to purchase a multi-year subscription can be helpful in some situations. If it will have a subscription, also offer a 1x purchasing option for those who can’t do subscriptions. If it’s an in-app purchase, also offer an option that will work for schools and state run facilities.
• Price your app where it is affordable & sustainable.
• Beyond the initial costs of developing the app, make sure that you also have a very well thought out long term plan and finances for supporting and keeping an AAC app updated.
I’ve received numerous messages over the years on my OMazing Kids AAC Consulting page from parents and therapists with very heartbreaking stories of AAC users losing their voice when Apple released a new iOS and the app wouldn’t work as expected. Several AAC app developers have not updated apps in 5 years or more. It’s one thing to lose a favorite game or therapy app but a whole different thing to lose an AAC app.
Want to read more about affordable AAC and/or pocket sized AAC? See these blog posts:
AAC Feature Matching Resource Bundle (includes all three, save 10%): https://bit.ly/aacFeatureMatchingBundle. If you are looking to purchase resources for several staff / team members, take a look at the Multiple Licenses discount (saves 20%)