Assistive Technology: Communication Products
Original Editors - Kirenga Bamurange Liliane
Introduction[edit | edit source]
The term Assistive Technology is generic term used to describe assistive, adaptive and rehabilitative devices for people with varying degrees of disability. They are aimed at assisting or expanding human function or capabilities. Assistive Technologies can be complex and range from sophisticated computerized communication systems and software programs to a simple handle on a telephone.  Recent studies show that up to 1% of the world population suffers a degree of speech, language or communication need.  There are communication devices, also called Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) devices, that are equipment people use to communicate without using verbal speech. The lives of people with communication difficulties can greatly be boosted by the Augmentative and Alternative Communication ( AAC) systems by promoting independence, social relationships and education. According to WHO, more than 1 billion people globally need 1 or more assistive products but only 1 in 10 people in need have access to assistive products. 
Who Might Need a Communication Device?[edit | edit source]
Children and adults with complex communication needs require the use of an AAC in their daily lives either as a permanent solution or a temporary one after surgery. The assistive communication products may be particularly helpful for people living with conditions such:
- Cerebral Palsy
- Autism/ Autism Spectrum Disorder
- Down Syndrome
- Motor Neuron Disease
- Multiple Sclerosis
- Angelman Syndrome
- Brain Injury
- Individuals with Paralysis
- Anyone who struggles with speech and communication
Types of Communication Products[edit | edit source]
- Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) Devices help people with communication disorders to express themselves. These devices can range from a simple picture board to a computer program that synthesizes speech from text. The ACC can either be Low-tech AAC or High-tech. is any type of aid that does not require batteries or electricity. They may include simple pen and paper to write messages on, pictures boards, that can be carried to aid communication by pointing on to images, words, pictures, drawings, or letters. High-tech AAC - Any aid that requires electricity or batteries. They might include specialized devices, software, smartphone applications, electronic communication boards, and keyboards. Most of high -tech AAC devices are Speech Generating Devices and can produce digitized speech when the user either types a message or presses on images, words, or letters.
- Alerting Devices connect to a doorbell, telephone, or alarm that emits a loud sound or blinking light to let someone with hearing loss know that an event is taking place. Several types of ALDs are available to improve sound transmission for people with hearing loss and are some are designed for large facilities such as classrooms, theaters, places of worship, and airports, while others are intended for personal use in small settings and for one-on-one conversations. All can be used with or without hearing aids or a cochlear implant. ALD systems for large facilities include hearing loop systems, frequency-modulated (FM) systems, and infrared systems.
- Infrared Systems use infrared light to transmit sound. A transmitter converts sound into a light signal and beams it to a receiver that is worn by a listener. The receiver decodes the infrared signal back to sound. 
- Educational Software to assist people with reading, learning and comprehension.
- Speech-generating Device also known also as voice output communication aids to supplement or replace speech or writing in people with severe speech impairments.
- Unaided Communication Systems use body language to communicate. They include gestures, body language, and/or sign language.
- Electronic Fluency Devices help improve people with stutters to become more fluent.
Where to use Assistive Communication Products?[edit | edit source]
They can be used:
- At School
- At Home
- At Work
- On the go
Benefits of Assistive Technology Communication Products[edit | edit source]
There are several benefits of using the communication products:
- They help people with communication disorders to express themselves.
- They increase self esteem and confidence of their users.
- They enable people to live their lives fully without being excluded in the society.
- They improve the transmission of sound for people with hearing loss.
- They contribute to the wellbeing of people with disabilities.
- They promote the efficiency of learning
Challenges Face with Communication Products[edit | edit source]
- Although the utilization of assistive technology for communication products is needed by a big number of people globally, it still remains a luxury to the majority of them due to its high cost. Two hundred million people with low vision do not have access to assistive products for low-vision whereas the hearing aid production only meets 10% of the global need out of a population of 466 million people globally who experience hearing loss.
- There is a lack of policy about communication products as well as trained personnel to offer technical support.
- There is a need for an adequate level of expertise of the team member ( health professionals, community workers and technical support) working along with children with learning disabilities.
Way Forward[edit | edit source]
- There is a need of an interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary research is needed with imperative user involvement/influence as well as a research in the area of technology as it grows rapidly
- All areas of the globe have unmet AT needs, but they differ depending on climate and geography, available personnel and finances, policy directives. The provision of communication products should take that into consideration.
- There is a need to create low cost or affordable products for low and middle income regions. 
References [edit | edit source]
- Maor D, Currie J, Drewry R. The effectiveness of assistive technologies for children with special needs: A review of research-based studies. European Journal of Special Needs Education. 2011 Aug 1;26(3):283-98.
- Elsahar Y, Hu S, Bouazza-Marouf K, Kerr D, Mansor A. Augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) advances: A review of configurations for individuals with a speech disability. Sensors. 2019 Jan;19(8):1911.
- Communicators – AAC. Available from: https://enablingdevices.com/product-category/communication-devices/ (Accessed, 07/07/2021)
- Baxter S, Enderby P, Evans P, Judge S. Interventions using high-technology communication devices: a state of the art review. Folia Phoniatrica et Logopaedica. 2012;64(3):137-44.
- Assistive technology. Available from: https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/assistive-technology (Accessed, 07/07/2021)
- Speech Disorders: Common Assistive Technologies. Available from: https://guides.library.illinois.edu/c.php?g=613892&p=4265891( Accessed, 07/07/2021).
- Assistive Technology for Nonverbal Students. Available from: https://study.com/academy/lesson/assistive-technology-for-nonverbal-students.html ( Accessed, 07/07/2021)
- Assistive Devices for People with Hearing, Voice, Speech, or Language Disorders. Available from: https://www.nidcd.nih.gov/health/assistive-devices-people-hearing-voice-speech-or-language-disorders ( Accessed, 07/07/2021)
- Smith, R.O., Scherer, M.J., Cooper, R., Bell, D., Hobbs, D.A., Pettersson, C., Seymour, N., Borg, J., Johnson, M.J., Lane, J.P. and Sujatha, S., 2018. Assistive technology products: a position paper from the first global research, innovation, and education on assistive technology (GREAT) summit. Disability and Rehabilitation: Assistive Technology, 13(5), pp.473-485.
- REACH.SERVICES. Introduction to Assistive Technology (AT) - Low, Mid, and High Tech. Available from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v [Accessed, 07/7/2021]
- Fairfax County Public Schools. Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC ) Devices. Real Look Autism Episode 8. Available from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qB2Fk0KdUuo[Accessed, 07/07/2021]