These communication aids (also known as speech output devices, augmentative and alternative communication devices (AAC) or VOCAs - voice output communication aids) use electronically stored speech as a means of communication. Sentences or longer messages can be strung together from individual words or phrases and the vocabulary can contain several thousand words.1-2 & 5
The speech output may use digitised (pre-recorded) speech, synthesised (artificial) speech or both. Digitised messages are created by recording spoken words directly into the communication aid. Synthesised speech is artificial, computer-generated speech - the quality of which is far better than it used to be.1-2
There are a number of ways to operate these aids. For example, pressing buttons or a touchscreen (direct selection) or using switches that allow access through any controllable movement of your body (scanning selection).2
It is crucial that a backup of the vocabulary is kept somewhere safe so that it can be used in the case of system failure.3
We recommend that you always arrange a multidisciplinary assessment before purchasing any type of communication aid. This will ensure that factors such as seating, mobility, access, motivation, educational needs, cognitive levels, training and ongoing support are all taken into account.2, 3 & 5 Complex solutions are not covered in any depth here - we recommend you speak to an appropriately qualified Speech and Language Therapist or get in touch with the ACE Centre or Communication Matters.
Communication Matters support people who find communication difficult because they have little or no clear speech.1The ACE centre offers help and support to individuals with complex physical and communication difficulties, their carers, parents, or therapist. They also maintain a website listing communication devices, the site is called speechbubble
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