Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) is any type of communication, either oral, non-oral, or through assitive technology devices. It addresses the needs of those with communication disorders, ranging from cerebral palsy, to autism, to those with language, speech and hearing impairments. The goal is to enable all people, including those with disabilities, to 1) communicate effectively and 2) to communicate quickly. AAC devices help those in need to be able to better communicate with others. AAC includes both unaided communication systems, such as: body language, gestures and sign langauge; and also aided communication, which requires the use of tools to assist in communication.
For those with visual impairments, there are a myraid of audio devices that easily convert text to oral speech. Students who suffer from blindness, from instance can now basically convert any text they want to their own "books on tape". There are several ways to do this, and it is becoming increasingly easier. For instance, Librovox offers a public database of a vast libarary of audio books available, including all the classics, like Shakespeare. Audible, an Amazon company, is another source of audiobooks which can be directly downloaded to your iPhone, iPod, or other device. Almost any text can now be converted to audio, very easily, using free apps compitable with a variety of listening devices, computers, and the internet. One example is Odiogo, a free, web-based service that converts text on your blog to audio. I simply added my e-mail and blog web address to sign up, and Odiogo created an audio-to-text widget that converts all of the text on my blog to audio at the convenient push of a button.
High-Tech Tool:Zygo is a company that specializes in alternative communication and assistive technology. I particularly liked the "Allora", a translator that converts words typed on a keyboard to an automated, audio voice. It also has a recording device for students who might want to preserve their orally-produced statement, such as one with a progressive neurodegenerative disease. Allora also offers "word prediction", which guesses what word is being after only entering the first few letters of the word. This feature boasts reducing keystrokes to 50% to increase speed of communication. This summer, during on of my observations in a mild-to-moderate special-needs classroom, I actually witnessed a 7th-grade student with high-functioning autism use this device to communicate with his teachers.
Accessibility:Input devices allows users with special needs to "input" data into their computers more easily. These devices include: joysticks, switches, modified keyboards, trackballs, and modified mice, just to name a few. These devices have been modified to make it easier for users with various disabilities to utilize. Keyboards modifications include enlarged keys, trackballs may be easier to control, and a modified mouse may not require as much pressure to control for users suffering from muscular or neurological disabilities. These are just some, out of many, types of devices that there are available for students with special needs.
Hardware tool:Headmouse Extreme is a modified mouse that is designed to assist those with limited mobillity. An optical senser mounted to the top of the computer senses the user's head movements. The movements are translated to the mouse on the computer so the user can control where the mouse goes with his head.
Software tool:An example of a software tool is 2+2, math software for students with visual impairments, designed by Techmatrix. Geared to teach basic math and pre-algebra skills to elementary-age students, 2+2 comes with spoken text and large print. It is also switch/scan accessible so it can easily interface with your hardware input device. In addition, the font size, style, color, and background can be formatted to the students' specific needs.