For the past 50 years, there have been companies that specialized in developing and selling communication tools. There are companies that specialized in AAC devices. Because of mergers and start-ups, the companies have morphed and changed over the years. Most of them have developed their own systems, symbols, hardware and software. Sometimes, they use standard or generic platforms to build specialized uses.
Examples of these companies include:
- Prentke Romich
- Saltillo (In fact, Prentke Romich and Saltillo are in the process of merging)
- Tobii Dynavox
These companies develop, support and sell devices that are dedicated to communication. The devices cannot be used for any other purpose. The main reason is that insurance companies may pay for a “dedicated speech generating device”. Insurance companies usually will not fund a multi-purpose device. They do not fund “consumer electronics”.
The products made by these companies have features that insurance requires. Generally, dedicated devices are “locked down” and can be used only for face to face communication. They are housed in a protective case and have amplification. They are louder than your typical tablet or iPad.
These companies configure devices for a person’s unique needs. This is necessary if the person has a complicated body. If someone can’t push a button, we can set the device to use switches, eye gaze or head tracking.
These companies also have funding resources, product representatives and salespeople. They can be a valuable resource if you have already decided on a particular company. They can help with customizing their products to meet a person’s unique needs. They can also help with the insurance approval process. The product reps often can troubleshoot and provide support.
In 2010, the iPad became available. This changed the landscape of AAC devices. For the first time, communication tools were available at a lower cost. If a person could touch the pictures on the screen, there were many more options. Here are some of the newer companies that have developed apps for consumer electronics:
- Speak For Yourself
- Assistiveware – Proloquo2Go and Proloquo4Text
Not sure which direction to go in? Do you want to explore a dedicated device? You can probably borrow devices from TechOWL. (https://techowlpa.org/library/) . The speech therapists and assistive technology specialists at TechOWL do not work for any particular company. TechOWL is “device agnostic”. TechOWL is free to people in Pennsylvania. TechOWL is government supported.