Giving people without speech new ways to talk

Communications devices are electronic communication aids that enable people with impaired speech to communicate with others by picture, word, and simulated or recorded voice. Called augmentative and alternative communications (AAC), these devices are designed for people with a wide range of speech impairments and physical disabilities. The devices run in size from a large yo-yo or a small notepad, to a standard computer keyboard. They can include screens or keyboards that are activated by touch, scanning, or even eye blinks.

 Such devices enable children and adults with impaired speech to project their wishes and thoughts to others in symbols or language that are widely understood. Most devices can be modified for individual needs and lifestyles, allowing for the creation of specific phrases of useful messages or speech. Using their communications device, people with impaired speech can hold conversations, make requests, draw, and write e-mails. This means that speech-impaired individuals can interact not only with those who are familiar with their particular communications style but also with those who are not. The expansion in everyday communications can enable speech-impaired individuals to reach new levels of independence.