AAC Speak App Case Study
AAC Speak was developed on behalf of Liberator Ltd. Liberator provides a range products and services that support individuals who use AAC (Augmentative and Alternative Communication)
Their mission: “Enable individuals with speech and language disabilities to become successful communicators.”
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Develop an iPad and Android tablet app that allowed users to build sentences from a series of selected core words so that they could express themselves independently. The app must have full offline capability. All words must be categorised with core words shown on a home page. A user must be able to customise either on a global or individual view level allowing them to create and edit their own views and personalise their own symbols. The admin will also require a method to build new views and easily share these via the App Store distribution channels without the support or intervention of the development team.
“Thanks again for realising the app. I think your team have done a great job and I’m really impressed with how well the code works… the app runs really smoothly.”Ian Thompson - Managing Director Liberator Ltd
The AAC Speak app enables someone who is non-verbal to communicate by using the symbols and buttons on the app to build a sentence. Once the sentence is built it can then be read using text-to-speech synthesis.
AAC Speak contains vocabulary which has been carefully sourced from a combination of leading researched word lists with an emphasis on core words in order to help individuals express themselves independently.
The app has been designed to ensure teaching is as simple as possible. The most frequently used words are on the first page (view); additional frequently used words are organised alphabetically so the teacher can quickly find them. In addition, where words are best sorted by category (i.e. foods), 19 categories have been included.
If more words or categories are required, the app can very easily be edited. Adding new words is also highly intuitive, as is changing all aspects of a button and page appearance.
AAC Speak comes with two vocabulary options: 28 buttons or 60 buttons. 28 buttons are better suited to individuals who need bigger buttons to press. But if the 60-button option is the right solution, then the user benefits from even more words to use.
However, if you wish to create your own vocabulary option, this can easily be done with just 1 to 70 buttons.
A very powerful feature of AAC Speak is the ‘Hide Mode’ that allows you to hide and reveal words. It means you can limit the app to just the words you wish to teach. This helps to reduce distractions and improve focus. These additional features are available to view in the app once a vocabulary file has been copied.
As well as providing an effective vocabulary set, AAC Speak is packed with features normally only available in expensive app solutions. At the press of a button, AAC Speak can be changed from showing pictures with words, or just pictures or just words… ideal for both literate and non-literate individuals!
As the person using the app develops more vocabulary and additional grammar is needed to improve communication, AAC Speak ‘Extended’ is available as an in-app purchase. This activates blank buttons in the top row so that words like “Want” change from a one-touch word to a two-touch word, but in doing so you get the option to select “Wants”, “Wanted” and “Wanting”. Examples of all AAC Speak vocabularies are available to use with voice output deactivated within the app.
As with any project, there are always some unforeseen challenges and this project was no different. I have picked two that stand out for different reasons. The first because content is always overlooked in terms of data size and efficiency; and the second because the technical solution to the challenge of updating content was and is groundbreaking.
- The size of the vocab, number of words and associated symbols was a challenge in terms of the overall size of the data. To manage this efficiently, we created a series of rules, checks and processing routines to make sure that the content conformed to the standards we required. These rules and processes had to be applied, otherwise the app would not have been viable.
- The delivery of revised views by the admin to the App Store enabled the creation of a method that has no bearing on the user’s experience but is a highlight in terms of the overall maintenance, management and delivery of content to the app via the App Store. There were the standard alternatives but this method gave the admin creative independence in terms of new layouts and their submission.
The AAC Speak app appealed as a project from the very start – and not just because of its difference and technical challenges. To build software solutions that have a real purpose and add value to the lives of others is incredibly rewarding.