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This page was last updated on: 23 October, 2012
Augmentative Communications

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A reference to both spoken and written language disorders. May affect both expression and understanding of communication.
A nervous system dysfunction that prevents the coordination of muscles resulting in limitation in motor control.
assistive devices
Devices that help someone perform a given task. For example, a picture board used for communication would be an assistive device.
assistive technology
A generic term including assistive, adaptive and rehabilitative devices and the process used in selecting, locating and using them. Assistive technologies include:
mechanical, electronic, and microprocessor based equipment: This includes microcomputers, electronic communication devices and other sophisticated devices. non-mechanical and non-electronic aids: For example, a ramp to replace steps would fit in this category. specialized instructional materials, services and strategies: Large print for persons with visual impairments is one example of specialized instructional material. augmentative communication system - Any system that aids individuals who are not independent verbal communicators. The system can include speech, gestures, sign language, symbols, synthesized speech, dedicated communication aids or microcomputers.
auditory scanning
A method of feedback to the user where the device emits a tone or word to indicate to the user which icon is currently selected.
encoding system
A process or system of assigning codes, abbreviations or labels to represent a letter, item or message. The system can be arbitrarily or systematically applied. For example, the code, 456 may represent "Turn on the TV," or a picture of a drinking glass may signify, "I want a drink of water." Commonly used coding systems include morse code, abbreviation/expansion and semantic compaction.
dial scan
A device which looks like a clock face without numbers and has only one hand or dial. It is usually battery operated and switch controlled. Pictures or miniature objects are placed around the perimeter of the face. Selection is made when the dial points to the desired object and the switch is pressed or released.
direct selection
Activation of a letter, picture or other item by a single action. Pressing a key on a keyboard, eye gaze selection or use of an optical headpointer are examples of direct selection.
A disorder of motor speech control which results in weakness, slowness, and a lack in coordination of the muscles needed to speak. It is the result of central or peripheral nerve damage.
expanded keyboard
A keyboard which has keys and/or spaces between the keys larger than the standard microcomputer keyboard.
A signal sent to the device user to indicte what selections exist, when to make a selection, and which selection was made. Feedback can consist of visual, auditory, or tactile.
A manual alphabet in which different shapes of the hands and fingers are used to encode the alphabet. Fingerspelling is used by the deaf or hearing impaired in conjunction with American Sign Language.
hand over hand
A therapeutic method where the therapist places their hand on the client's hand and supports it while performing a task, such as accessing a computer or communication device, dressing, eating, etc. This can also refer to the therapist holding the client's hand and moving it for them, to perform a task.
headwand, headstick, or headpointer
A pointer or extension device that is mounted to a headpiece and extends from the center of the forehead and angles downward. It is usually used in direct selection of an object such as a key on a keyboard or a symbol or word on a board. It is for use by persons with good head control and limited upper and lower body movement. If the pointer extends from the chin, it is referred to as a chinwand or chinstick.
A graphic used to represent a concept or idea. Icons can appear on the computer screen or in print format. For example, a pencil may represent a word processing program.
Graphic symbols used to represent ideas.
input device
A method of activating or sending information to a computer or other electronic device. Keyboards, mice and trackballs are common computer input devices.
interdisciplinary team
Individuals involved in assessment and recommendations for persons with disabilities. The team consists of persons from a wide variety of disciplines including, but not limited to, medical experts, educators, speech language pathologists, occupational therapists, rehabilitation engineers, care providers, psychologist, counselors, and social workers.
A socket that is attached to electronic device into which a switch or other type of device is plugged.
A manual device with a moveable control lever that can be tilted in various directions to control computer, wheelchair or other target system.
keyboard emulator
A device that is connected to or resides in a computer and imitates the computer's keyboard in function and performance.
A cover, usually made of plastic or plexiglass, which fits directly over the computer's keyboard. Holes in the cover correspond to each key on the keyboard and guide a finger, headstick or mouthstick to facilitate direct key presses. Locking devices which allow keys to operate similarly to a caps lock key are available for keys frequently used in multiple key sequences, such as the shift key, function or command keys.
A Light Emitting Diode is a semiconducting device that emits light when an electric current runs through it. It uses significantly less power, releases less heat, and lasts a lot longer than an incandescent light bulb.
membrane keyboard
A computer input device that is a flat keyboard with pressure sensitive switches located under a soft surface. The user activates the device by pressing on the surface.
A form of gesture where the user acts out of motions with the entire body to simulate an activity in order to convey meaning to the observer.
miniature keyboard
A computer input device that contains all the functions of a standard keyboard but is smaller in size. People with a limited range of motion or one handed users can benifit from this type of device.
moisture guard
A protective cover usually made of a soft clear plastic designed to cover a keyboard and protect it from moisture.
non-transparent access
A method of accessing a computer-based device that requires specialized software to allow it to interface with the computer.
Any number of devices connected to a computer to provide input, output, or other functions. Printers, modems, switches, voice synthesizers, and internal memory cards are considered peripherals.
A pictorial representation of a word or idea.
picture exchange
A communication method where the client learns to exchange a picture of an object (toys, food) for the object itself. Verbal prompting is not supposed to be used. This system can be expanded to include symbols and concepts to build the client's communication skills. For more info go to: Picture Exchange Communication System,
The optimal seated position in a wheelchair places the individual's hips, knees and feet at 90 degree angles. The individual should feel secure, comfortable and relaxed.
rehabilitative device
Rehabilitate means to train. Rehabilitative devices are used for testing, exercising and training. For example, a balance beam is a rehabilitative device used to improve coordination.
A selection technique which presents groups of items to the user. The user then signals with a switch press, gesture or other means when the desired item is being indicated. The scanning may be performed automatically by an electronic system or manually by the communication partner.
selection technique
The means by which the user acquires or gets to and selects items which will be sent to a device.
sequential messaging
A selection technique in which messages are recorded in a preset order and then played back in succession when the user activates the device. An example of this is to record a song, like "Ol' MacDonald", phrase by phrase, and to have the ACC user "sing" each phrase of the song by pressing a switch. The user needs to keep pressing the switch to keep advancing to the next phrase of the song.
sip and puff switch
A dual switch that is activated by sipping or puffing on an apparatus resembling a drinking straw.
spatial system
A spatial system is part of American Sign Language. It is used to describe the settings of the topic of conversation. A spatial system may be the setting where the person is signing or it may be a completely different context (i.e. spatial map).
speech digitizer
A device which allows digitally recorded speech to be analyzed and converted into electronic patterns that can be stored on a computer. Digitized speech may vary in quality from poor to human sounding, depending on the sampling frequency and audio playback system.
speech synthesizer
An electronic device that converts text characters into artificial speech. Speech synthesizers most frequently use pronunciation rules for translating text to speech. The quality of synthetic speech ranges from close to lifelike to robotic sounding speech found in lower end speech synthesizers.
step scanning
A selection technique where the user steps though a number of choices by pressing one switch, and selects the desired choice with a second switch.
An input device used to control assistive devices and computers. There are a variety of types of switches including pressure switches, pneumatic switches, and voice activated switches. These switches can control adapted toys, environmental control devices, communication devices, and a wide range of computers.
A Telecommunication Device for the Deaf allows a person to transmit typed messages over the phone lines to another person with a TDD. Most TDD's include a keyboard for typing messages to send and a display and/or printer to receive messages.
transparent access
A method of using an alternative access system with a computer based device, such that the computer does not detect that the individual is using alternate input.
Another common term for TTY or TDD.
The preferred term for a TDD by the Deaf community. This term originated with the Teletype Terminal, which was a loud mechanical printer with poor print quality used to transmit encoded text information over telephone lines.
voice recognition system
An access system designed to replace the standard keyboard as the method of input. The system is "trained" to recognize utterances that are spoken into a microphone. The utterances are translated into computer commands or sequences of alphanumeric characters and used to operate the computer and software.