Two of the most popular personal mobile devices, with phone, Internet, e-mail and navigation capabilities are the iPod Touch and iPhone. These devices are now being used for more than talking on, sending messages, listening to music, and surfing the web. Recently released applications transform these devices into communication tools and enable those who do not have functional vocal ability with the power to communicate. While many communication devices can cost anywhere from $500-$10,000, augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) users are able to purchase and download applications from the Apple iTunes store to turn their iPod Touch or iPhone into a communication device for less than $500.
Especially great for teenagers and adults, these devices look cool and are the same mobile technology that many others have and are carrying around. This new communication functionality is quite simple; a user must have the ability to push small buttons on the screen with his or her fingertips or the ability to hold and use a stylus for button activation. Through either pre-programmed pages and/or a keyboard, users are able to communicate their wants, needs and thoughts. Ease of portability is one of the many benefits of these devices. They can be carried in one’s pocket, on a lanyard or around the waist.
The following is a list of applications that may be purchased for the iPod Touch and/or iPhone from the Apple iTunes store:
- Proloquo2go: Fully featured communication software with over 7000 items. Good quality voices. Cost: $189.99.
- Talk Assist: Speaks anything typed into the application. A history of typed phrases is kept, or phrases can be saved. Free.
- iSpeech – Text to Speech: Speaks anything typed into the application. Free.
- Speak it! Text to Speech: Turns anything a user types into speech. Good voice synthesizer with very clear speech. Cost: $1.99.
- Talk to Me – Text to Speech: Speaks words as they are typed and will speak whole phrases. Cost: $1.99.
- Locabulary: Speaks pre-programmed words/phrases. Free.
- Small Talk to Aphasia: Designed for people with aphasia (an acquired language disorder). Small Talk provides a vocabulary of pictures and videos that talk in a natural human voice. Free.
While the iPod Touch and iPhone are extremely accessible and affordable forms of mobile technology, it is important to remember that not everyone will have the ability to use these as AAC devices. Potential users should be evaluated by a team of AAC specialists to help match patients with an augmentative communication device/system that meets their unique needs.
With this latest development of downloadable applications for these Apple products, technology continues to constantly change communication, providing more and more people with the ability to have a voice. Now with the announcement of the iPad, with a larger screen and easier to read buttons, technology continues to take us into unknown but exciting places.
-Submitted by Melissa Carrier-Damon, Children’s Care Speech-Language Pathologist