AACommodating CommunicATion for RecreATion

Communication Boards & Resources for Recreation

Welcome to AACommodating CommunicATion for RecreATion!  Here you will find:

  • Information on the project
  • Frequently asked questions
  • Resources about augmentative & alternative communication (AAC)
  • Downloadable communication boards

What is AACommodating CommunicATion for RecreATion?

AACommodating CommunicATion for RecreATion started as a collaboration between TechOWL and the Philadelphia Parks & Recreation department. The goal of this project is to improve access to communication at playgrounds and other recreational spaces throughout the city of Philadelphia.

Available Boards

Communication boards will be posted here. Boards for different activities and in multiple languages will be added soon. Check back here for updates!

Image of Playground Board. This board features core vocabulary and playground specific vocabulary for communication.

Playground Communication Board

Click here to download a PDF version of the Playground Communication Board. It is currently available in English.

A document with a list of the terms used for the Playground Communication Boards is available.  This list describes the icons and their meanings by location on the page. Click here to download the terms list.


What is AAC?

Augmentative & alternative communication (AAC) is any form of communication other than spoken/oral language used to express thoughts, needs, wants, and ideas. AAC is any tool (light-tech to high-tech) that is used to help someone communicate.  Communication is a human right. Every person has the right to express their ideas.

What are communication boards?

Communication boards are a form of AAC. They are a type of assistive technology (AT) that helps people communicate. These boards can be printed on paper or even used on a smartphone or tablet. Communication boards can be used to introduce the power of language and core vocabulary.  They contain everyday, high-frequency words.  These “core” words are important and make up almost 80% of what we say like stop, go, want, up, more.  They can be used to model language and help someone participate in conversations and activities.  Communication boards may also have words specific to an activity like toys, slide, swing. These boards can be a tool to help someone communicate on a playground or other recreation site.

Who created these communication boards?

TechOWL, Carousel Connections, and Philadelphia Parks & Recreation staff contributed to the project. These boards were created for different ages, interests, and disabilities of Pennsylvanians. Self-advocates with intellectual and developmental disabilities were consulted on the project.

Why were these communication boards created?

Everyone has the right to communicate.  Communication boards at playgrounds and recreation centers will give more visitors the ability to participate and play. The addition of communication boards is a small, but a tangible step toward inclusion.  It also serves as a visual reminder that the Parks & Recreation centers in Philadelphia care about inclusion and want to be a welcoming space for everyone.

What are these icons? Where are they from?

The icons come from the Noun Project. These icons were selected to be symbols because they are not associated with a specific company, device, or AAC app.  The Noun Project offers a wide variety of icons to represent concrete and abstract concepts. There are license options to use the icons: Public Domain, Attribution, and Royalty-Free (subscription or individual icon license is required to use or modify icons without attribution). TechOWL and AAC Community team members subscribe to the Noun Project and frequently use these icons across various initiatives. The Noun Project icons were also used to create a COVID-19 specific core board that was created and distributed throughout the city at the start of the 2020 public health crisis.

How should I use a communication board with my child/student/friend/etc.?

This is how we recommend using a communication board:

  • Get the person’s attention
  • Use simple language
  • Ask one question at a time
  • Have the person point to the words/pictures on the communication board
  • Give time for a response
  • Respond to the person’s message (even if they can’t have/do what they want right away)
  • Model communication with the board (use the board too!)
  • Remember to respond to nonverbal communication
  • Use all means of communication

What if I need a communication board in a language that isn’t available?

If you would like a playground communication board in a language that isn’t yet available, please contact us and we will do our best to have the board translated for you.  You can email techowl@temple.edu or call 800-204-7428.  We will be continuing to add languages.

How do I get a high-tech device for myself or someone I know?

AAC devices can be highly customized to meet someone’s needs. You can borrow AAC devices and apps from the AT Lending Library at TechOWLpa.org. Using the lending library is free for anyone in Pennsylvania!

You can also contact a TechOWL speech-language pathologist to learn more about AAC and to find out how to pay for equipment. Schedule a free video chat at https://techowlpa.org/news/make-appt/.

Where can I get more information about AAC and communication?

To learn more about AAC and communication, go to aaccommunity.net. AAC Community is an effort to unite all individuals concerned with communication rights for Pennsylvanians with intellectual disability, autism, movement difficulties, or other disabilities that create complex communication needs.

What other resources are available from TechOWL for people with disabilities?

Did you know that every state has a program to help people with disabilities explore, find, and get assistive technology? These tools may be needed for school, work, and life in the community. TechOwl, which is a part of the Institute on Disabilities at Temple University is the home for this program in Pennsylvania.

  • Lending Library: TechOWL has a statewide assistive technology lending library that will send you devices to try for up to 9 weeks.
  • Trainings and Presentations: TechOWL provides a variety of presentations, conversations, and exhibitions to help self-advocates, professionals, families, and other community members learn more about tools and technology for people with disabilities.
  • Reuse: TechOWL helps connect people with the tools they need through the equipment reuse program. There are many partners and people across Pennsylvania that make used equipment, tools, and technology available for other Pennsylvanians with disabilities.
  • iCanConnect: iCanConnect is a special free program to help people who have combined hearing and vision loss to access telephone, advanced communications, and information services.  There are income requirements for this program.
  • Free Special Phone Program: Free Special Phones are available for people who have difficulty hearing, talking, seeing, thinking, or moving.

Check out https://techowlpa.org/ for more information and additional resources!

Partners & Contributors to This Project: 

  • Institute on Disabilities at Temple University
    • Kim SingletonDirector of Assistive Technology Programs
    • Alanna Raffel, Assistive Technology Specialist/Occupational Therapist
    • Kathryn Helland, AAC Services Coordinator, Speech-Language Pathologist
    • Hali Strickler, AAC Services Coordinator, Speech-Language Pathologist
    • Virginia DiLello, Program/Publication Specialist, Graphic Design
  • Philadelphia Parks & Recreation
    • Amy McCann, CEO/Program Director, Carousel Connections
    • Grace Cannon, Director of Program Design & Development, Office of Parks & Recreation
    • Bill Salvatore, Leadership & Organizational Development Manager, Office of Parks & Recreation
    • Chase Trimmer, Special Olympics
    • Alex Fossi, Jefferson Center for Autism and Neurodiversity
    • Sabra Townsend, Jefferson Center for Autism and Neurodiversity
  • Special thanks to the recreation site staff and self-advocates who participated in focus groups for feedback and final icon selection.