Communication Aids

What is a Communication Aid?

If your speech is unclear or you have no speech at all then a computer can help you be understood. A communication aid is anything that helps an individual communicate more effectively with those around them. This could range from a simple letter board to a more sophisticated piece of electronic equipment.

This factsheet tells you about the many options available and some of the tools that can help.

It is not essential for the user to be able to read text in order to use a communication aid.  Many aids are symbol or picture  based and still provide full functionality in order to communicate with others.

Selecting the right communication aid for an individual will depend on many factors such as their method of access and personal preferences.  We would always recommend that a specialist assessment should be sought through a speech & language therapist or communication aid centre.

We cannot advise on standalone Voice Output Communication Aids (VOCA), but can offer help with the use of a PC to support an individuals’ communication needs. If a VOCA is likely to be of benefit to an individual we would strongly recommend contacting an appropriate organisation or supplier to assess your needs.

Our main concern is to make sure that an individual has the right device to meet their needs.  However, please be aware that getting the correct equipment with the correct software, mounted in the correct place, controlled with a suitable method, will rarely be more than 40% of a solution.  The rest, and in our opinion, the most important part of any given solution, is the personalisation, training, and ongoing support required to enable the user to deliver the conversation they require.

An electronic communication aid can be a device that has been purposely built for that job, and does nothing else, or a standard computer running specialist communication aid software with the added benefit of being a computer as well.  AbilityNet may be involved when the method of communication is based around a standard computer.

A lot of people with communication difficulties are using tablet computers such as iPads to help them communicate.  There is a factsheet called “Tablet Computers” which explores the subject in greater detail.

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