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New Equipment at CALL: Tobii S32

By Joanna Courtney on Monday 22nd August, 2011 at 2:55pm

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Tobii S32 Scan

The Tobii S32 comes in Touch and Scan models. CALL has the Scan model, which is more expensive but has more features, so is good for assessments.

The Scan model can be used with direct touch to the buttons and a set of 1, 2, 4, 6, 8, 16 or 32 keyguards, which come with it , or by 1 or 2 switch scanning.

The S32 Scan plays back pre-recorded messages, or IR signals and environmental controls and has up to 60 hours of recording time.

It works by using a barcode system, so you can record hundreds of messages or sounds into the device, but it will only play back messages that relate to the overlay that is inserted at the time.

Overlays are made using Tobii SymbolMate software, which comes with the device and has to be used to make the overlays (rather than e.g. Boardmaker), as it prints out a unique barcode along the top of the overlay so that the correct recordings can be recognised by the device.

Symbolmate comes with over 15,000 Symbolstix symbols, but also supports PCS, Widgit and other symbol sets, which need to be purchased separately. CALL's Symbolmate software uses the Symbolstix symbols.

There are a variety of switch access settings and auditory recorded prompts can also be used for those with processing or visual difficulties.

The scan light is a small green light at the top right of the cell, which is not especially clear or easy to follow.

The device does have some nice additional features like 'function cueing' where you can have from 2 to 6 buttons pressed in sequence and then spoken out in full at the end (to encourage sentence building). However, it is a rather expensive for a paper-based recorded speech device and requires getting familiar with new overlay-making software and keeping track of all the overlays which are created.

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New Equipment at CALL: Tobii Communication Devices

By Joanna Courtney on Monday 22nd August, 2011 at 10:19am

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Tobii Communication Devices

Tobii are best known for their 'MyTobii' eye gaze technology, but actually make a range of devices

  • the original P10 eyegaze computer
  • the new C12 and  C15 communication aids
  • CEye eye gaze control unit (for use with C12 and C15)
  • the PCEye control unit for eye gaze access to a computer
  • portable communication aid called the C8 (no eye gaze access)
  • medium tech aid with recorded speech called the S32

CALL have recently purchased this whole range of devices, which are available on 'restricted loan' to assessment clients and will also be used for demonstrations and training.

The following few blogs will give an overview of each of the devices, what they can do and who they may be suitable for.

Tobii C8 communication aid

The Tobii C8 is a computer based communication aid with an 8.4 inch (20.5cm) touchscreen. It is lightweight (1.8kg) and powerful and can be used either as a portable or wheelchair mounted device. It has long battery life ( 6hrs ) and also has hot swappable batteries so you can charge the device without having to turn it off and take it away from the user. The interchangeable coloured side panels make it easy to customise (green, pink, blue, purple) and the two powerful stereo speakers give the C8 great sound quality. It has a stand and a removable carry strap, but no built-in handle.

The main difference between the C8 and the larger C12 and C15 devices is that it has 2 speakers (they have 4) and that while the C8 can be used with a variety of access methods (direct touch, 1 and 2 switch, joystick, etc)  it cannot accommodate eye gaze access (whereas the C12 and C15 can).

This device could be suitable for users who need a light-weight portable device with synthetic speech and who would like to use additional Windows based software and Sapi 5 Scottish voices, which cannot be used with designated communication devices at a similar level e.g. Vantage Lite.

The C8 comes with Tobii Communicator Standard edition package, which includes several communication programs allowing communication using text or with over 15,000 Symbolstix symbols. The CALL device includes the upgrade, Tobii Communicator Premium, which includes email, text messaging and environmental control. Acapela voices are included with the device and you can also use recorded speech, if required. The device also has a built-in camera so that the user can take photos and use them on their communication pages.

As the C8 is Windows 7 based, other communication software can also be installed and CALL's C8 has the Grid 2 as an alternative option to Tobii Communicator. Being Windows based also means that Sapi 5 voices like 'Scottish Heather' and the soon to be released 'Scottish Stuart' voice are installed on this device ready for use, as well as on the C12 and C15.

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The case against Assistive Technology

By Sally Millar on Monday 8th August, 2011 at 6:16pm

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Here's a wee film called 'The Case Against Assistive Technology' to get everyone going at the beginning of the new session.

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PCS (Boardmaker symbols) App coming soon

By Sally Millar on Tuesday 2nd August, 2011 at 9:59am

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Aha!  Mayer Johnson are publishing an app for iPad and iPod / iPhone,  iOS 3.1.3 and above

It's coming 'soon'. It will be free.

It sounds like it will be especially useful for learning new symbols, and for practising, familiarising and and consolidating knowledge of symbols and their meanings.  May be especially popular as 'homework' with parents and also sounds like some quite fun games (bingo matching etc.),  Could also be valuable as a trainer for working on mastery of that 'iPad flick'.

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Autobiography of a person who uses AAC

By Sally Millar on Monday 25th July, 2011 at 11:56am

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You may be interested to read the newly published autobiography called Ghost Boy of Martin Pistorius who lost his speech at 12 years old. He uses AAC and has succeeded well in life both personally and professionally.

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New! Summer ContAACt newsletter

By Joanna Courtney on Tuesday 21st June, 2011 at 2:54pm

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  The New issue of the ContAACt newsletter is out now!

                                Read all about:

  •  The 'Hello' Campaign and the National Year of Communication
  •  AAC Events across Scotland
  •  What's New in AAC
  •  The latest on the AAC Campaign in Scotland
  •  The views of people who use AAC

 and much more!

 Go to /Resources/Newsletters/ContAACt/ to read it online or to download a copy

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The Scottish Male Voice is chosen!

By Paul Nisbet on Tuesday 14th June, 2011 at 3:54pm

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Well the votes are in and we can now reveal that the winner is....... SPA!

We emailed samples of six male voices out to people who had downloaded Heather, to key contacts in local authorities, FE colleges and Universities, to ICTSLS, members of SICTDG, members of Augmentative Communication in Practice Scotland, and to children and young people who use Assistive Technology.

We received feedback, comments and scores from 82 people. SPA got the highest overall score, and was also the voice that most people preferred as the first and second choice.

 

SPA went into the recording studio a few weeks ago to start recording about 30 hours worth of reading, and we understand that he has just finished the recording. It will take CereProc a few weeks to process the recordings and create the voice, and we hope to have it available for download from our Scottish Voice web site by the start of the new school term.

We now need a name... and we might have a vote for that too... so watch this space.

Thanks to everyone who listened to the voices and gave us the feedback.

Paul

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The Dazzling World of Apps

By Sally Millar on Wednesday 25th May, 2011 at 12:59pm

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This is an interesting newsletter (from the USA) that draws together a rich list of resources and provides a useful set of iPad/iPod/iPhone App links but also offers some very sensible words of caution about the risk of being 'swept away' by an unrealistic expectation that iPad Apps can meet every need and solve every problem. A debate that will no doubt be airing a lot in these times ....

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Funding for a male Scottish Voice approved!

By Paul Nisbet on Monday 7th March, 2011 at 2:29pm

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We are very pleased to announce that the Scottish Government has awarded us funding to work with CereProc to develop a male Scottish computer voice: a 'brother for Heather'. The funding will also pay for a licence for the entire public sector in Scotland, so that the voice can be used by school-age pupils, further and higher education students, workers in the public sector, and NHS patients.

Heather has been very well received by Scottish learners and pupils and we hope that the new male voice will be just as successful. It should certainly provide a better option for Scots boys with speech and language difficulties who use voice output communication aids, because at present they have a choice of speaking with very adult and very English voices, or one of a few rather low-fi Amercian children's accents, or with a female voice.

CereProc are currently advertising for a voice actor to provide the 'male voice of Scottish education'. A short list of suitable voices will then be drawn up and then the most suitable person chosen. The 'chosen one' then goes into a recording studio and spends many hours reading from texts, and then CereProc's engineers use these recordings to create the computer voice.

We'll keep you posted on progress.

In the meantime, if anyone has suggestions for a good name for the male Scottish voice (Euan? Ian? Hamish? Graham? David? Jimmy? Angus? Rab? Rhuaridh?) why not post a comment to let us know!

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Scottish Government Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) Project

By Allan Wilson on Tuesday 8th February, 2011 at 3:55pm

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Stakeholder Views: People who use AAC

The Scottish Government is supporting the development of national guidance for Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC). It will make recommendations on the provision and support for AAC. The guidance, for children and adults, will be directed to all statutory agencies in Scotland: Health, Social Work and Education.

Make your Voice Heard!

If you use AAC, or are the parent or carer of a person who uses a communication aid, you are encouraged to share experiences, and make comments and suggestions related to the question areas. Your comments will be subject to strict confidentiality. If you would like to help, please complete the questionnaire available from the Augmentative Communication in Practice: Scotland web site and return it to:

AAC Project
Adult Care and Support Division
Primary and Community Care Directorate
2ER
St Andrews House
Regent Road
Edinburgh
EH1 3DG

Alternatively, email: Alison Gray, Project Manager (alison.gray@scotland.gsi.gov.uk).

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Protect and carry your iPad

By Sally Millar on Tuesday 11th January, 2011 at 8:57am

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Everyone loves the iPad but three of the (several, actually) things that make it less than ideal as a portable communication aid are lack of a carry handle and the fact that little fingers cannot resist self-distraction by constantly pressing the Home button. Also lack of volume, for loud and noisy environments. Amdi's brand new iAdapter seems to address all three of these with a rubbery protective cover, that includes a carry handle, a slide cover over the Home button and built-in amplified speakers (rechargeable battery). It also comes with a shoulder strap and a plastic stand for table top use. Not cheap, but.... We're looking forward to seeing it, and hoping a UK supplier picks it up quickly, will keep you posted on that.

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Ultra mini Windows PCs can be used as communication aids

By Sally Millar on Wednesday 15th December, 2010 at 3:19pm

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Portability is generally a key requirement of a voice output communication aid. A few dedicated communication aids come in 'handheld' size, and there continues to be much interest in iPods and iPads (cheapness is another attractive feature!) But amazingly, nowadays, you can buy a fully featured Windows 7 lightweight wifi PC with a 5" or 7" screen. There are touch screen only versions (X70, S5), or tiny clamshell with keyboard and touchscreen (N5). They have a fantastic 'instantly -on' feature and days of standby-time; battery life is pretty good (5-6 hours) but an extra speaker would be needed to give volume adequate for anything other than a quiet environment. The S5 and N5 are pocketable, the X70 is eminently hand-baggable. All are potentially switch accessible.

X70 (weighs 700 grams)

S5 (weighs 395 grams)

N5 (399 grams)

The leading manufacturer is Viliv, and these South Korean ultra mini PCs (UMPC) can be bought directly from the UK supplier, Think4 IT or from various online sources, eg. Dynamism , at around the 450 - 550 mark (ex VAT) depending on version & supplier. With communication aid software, symbol sets and communication vocabularies loaded, they can be bought from: SmartBox with The Grid 2; or Speaks4Me (premium added for software, support and extended warranty etc.). Check it out!

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New Autumn ContAACt newsletter

By Joanna Courtney on Wednesday 17th November, 2010 at 3:01pm

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Issue 4 of the ContAACt newsletter is out now!

Full of AAC news and views from people who use AAC in Scotland!

Look 'In the Diary' to find out what AAC events are coming soon, read about Barry's trip to Barcelona and get advice from the "Speak Out Group" on the best places to go in Dundee!

Why don't you click on Autumn ContAACt newsletter and read all about it!

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Speech Bubble - Database of Information on Communication Aids

By Allan Wilson on Wednesday 10th November, 2010 at 8:53am

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Our friends at the ACE Centre in Oxford have now launched their SpeechBubble web site, providing a database of detailed information about almost all of the communication aids and software available in the UK. 

You can search for devices that fit into a number of categories, e.g. 'Simple Aids with one Message', or 'Computer-based Aids with Touchscreen', or try to find devices that have a particular feature, e.g. Visual Scanning or Recorded Speech. It is possible to combine search terms to find, for example, a device that can be accessed by using Morse Code, with synthetic speech that can be used for texting. (the DynaVox V and VMax fit the bill!).

This is NOT an assessment tool which parents will be able to use to buy their child a communication aid 'off the shelf', but it will be an invaluable tool for therapists looking for a suitable device for a client with specific requirements, offering suggestions that they might not be aware of.

This is a great resource that will save therapists a lot of time and effort and we would like to thank Mark Saville and colleagues at ACE for the huge amount of work that has gone into this exciting new facility.

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Is sushi on the menu?

By Sally Millar on Friday 29th October, 2010 at 6:14pm

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Kids with physical disabilities often need to use 'scanning'  (and switching) to access their communication and/or writing programs. Scanning is a widely misunderstood word.  A good definition was coined by David Colven and Simon Judge in  'Switch Access to Technology'. They say: "It's a bit like a 'Yo Sushi' bar. You can't reach all the dishes from where you sit, and so you have to wait until the one you want turns up in front of you."

I like that!  I'd like to bring in a 'restaurant metaphor' of my own. With  children who use low tech communication, I often get faced with frustrated staff who say  'he can't even answer Yes or No or make choices'. Then I watch, and see them say things like 'Freddy - do you want mince for lunch? Yes or no?' .    At that point I reflect on how I would feel if I went into a restaurant and the waiter said "Do you want chicken balmoral?"  I'd say "well maybe - I don't know - what else do you have on the menu, please tell me ALL the options and THEN I'll choose."  (And I might think 'what a useless waiter!')

So  - except with those few pupils who are known to cope with only one or two alternatives - I often suggest that staff should limit the use of yes/no questions and forced alternative questions (choice from 2)  and try using oral/auditory scanning instead. I have seen pupils learn to make successful choices from 3, 4 and even 6 or more items using this method.  It's especially powerful for children with visual impairment and really poor pointing ability - no pictures needed, just consistent oral presentation by staff and listening and simple signalling by the child.

Of course, things can get much more sophisticated by introducing symbols and even eye-coding systems to create a full 'partner assisted scanning system'.  A comprehensive handout by Linda Burkhart and Gayle Porter is available. And check out this video by Gail van Tatenhove to see how far this can go

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