Here is Alan’s ISAAC Paper…..
Abstract (135 of 150 max)
Whilst growing up, it was my dream to have an electronic AAC device that would enable me to talk more to people on my own. Following several trials of numerous devices, I have only found one that comes close to meeting my needs. Unfortunately, it was best suited to a static environment and limited my ability to talk to people on the move. I have found that my wordboard is still the best for portability. Another main issue that I experienced has been that the devices are slower for me to use than my wordboard. As a result, I have begun work on a project to merge the wordboard and an electronic device to create a more portable communication system for myself. Hopefully this will result in a more portable and faster means of communication.
Proposal(967 of 1000 max)
When I was little, I had a dream. My dream was to have a portable communication device to help me to talk to people on my own. In 1986, I got a similar device called a Vois 135. At the time I really liked my machine, as it was the first time I was able to talk on the telephone. It also helped me to talk about hobbies and bands that my friends and I liked at school. This device was what really opened the door for me, giving me more independence. I had the Vois 135 for around eight years but I found that the device was too bulky and awkward to move around with. Despite the fact the fact that I have always used a wordboard, which was great to take everywhere, it had three main limitations. Firstly, as it is not able to output sounds I am unable to talk on the phone using it. Secondly, I cannot communicate with the driver when we are going on car trips. Lastly, reading the wordboard in the dark is almost impossible. What I really needed was to find a smaller, more portable device much like the wordboard, which had the electronic capacity of the Vois 135, which would increase my ability to talk even more. This was my dream.
Last summer, whilst at an AAC conference in South Africa, I was asked why I use such a low-tech device when there is a wide variety of higher – tech devices available for AAC. Although I would like a higher-tech device after having tried and tested a few, my wordboard is still the only one that best meets my needs. The first time I came across a portable, electronic AAC device was at a previous ISAAC conference with a colleague of mine. After using it for an hour, I decided it was useful for me and similar to what I had been searching for. After returning home from the conference, I told my therapist about the exciting product I had seen. She said that she would try and get it for me to try out. After a short period, my therapist managed to get me the device on a trial basis. As I grew to like the device, I asked my therapist if I could keep the device as my own and finally it was mine to keep. The device greatly increased my ability to communicate giving me the freedom to talk on the move. As a result I tried to use my wordboard less relying more on the device for my communication. After about a year of use, I found I was not able to use the device quick enough to keep up with the conversations. I was still faster on my wordboard and I found people were more engaged in the conversation when they had to interact on a deeper level with me. The device was really good but after about three years it kept breaking down which meant that it had to be sent away to be fixed, leaving me without my communication device for around a month at a time. I still had my wordboard though. My therapist suggested that I invest in a different device that was more reliable than my current one.
My next device was a surprise purchase by my therapist, which worked well in theory, but in practice it wasn’t so good. The buttons were quite small making it difficult for me to select the right letter I wanted. Again, I found communicating with the device was slow. Due to the electronic voice, it reduced my engagement with the person I was talking to and the time I spent interacting with my device increased the chance of person thinking the conversation was over and saying good-bye leaving me half way through my sentence. My wordboard, however, allows me to interact more with the people I am talking to and reduces the chance of someone misinterpreting the end of the conversation. In my opinion, the wordboard increases interaction between two people in conversation through eye contact, a feature that is often absent from a conversation using an electronic AAC device. I often find that when I use an electronic AAC device the conversation is broken and disjointed as I spend more time with the device instead of interacting with the person. However, despite the fact that my word board is the best AAC device I have at the moment, it requires more work from the other people in the conversation as they have to stitch together my sentences.
For the past twenty-three years I have been helping develop software for AAC devices in the hope that my experience will help to create a device that is suitable. However, despite all the technology, my wordboard is still the best! I know this is a big problem for disabled people but I have this idea of a device that outputs its sound from nearer my throat using a handheld input device allowing me to properly talk to someone. In the meantime, I am currently working with a friend and colleague on my idea of trying to merge my wordboard and a portable electronic device to allow me to communicate with a normal conversational flow. With the same colleague, we are also currently developing another one of my ideas of using an interactive map to give non-speakers the chance to talk about their holidays and travelling experiences unassisted to their friends and family. It is hoped that by having an AAC user leading the initial design processes based on their experiences that we could create a more practical and usable device for other AAC users like myself.
In our talk, I will describe how we designed the device together and demonstrate how it works.