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Assistive Technology Solutions for Employees with Speech Impairments

Learn more about accommodations for individuals with speech impairments

From the desk of Teresa Goddard, M.S., Lead Consultant – Sensory Team


Have you ever wondered how a person who hears but doesn’t speak uses the phone? Of course there are TTY and speech-to-speech relay services, but what if relay methods don’t meet the employee’s needs? What if the nature of the work requires a more direct and confidential method of communicating?

There are devices for phone and face-to-face communication that are designed for individuals who do not speak at all or who find speaking very challenging called AAC (Alternative and Augmentative Communication). AAC devices, also called speech-generating devices, are an example of a type of technology that can be used by individuals who have difficulty speaking. JAN has general information about AAC devices as well as information about AAC with telephone access.

Ideally when AAC is being considered, a speech language pathologist with expertise in AAC would be involved. The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association has a special interest group of professionals working in AAC.

It may be worthwhile to see if the State AT project in your area would be able to at a minimum demo some products. In some states they may also be able to perform assessments. State AT projects are funded under the Technology-related Assistance for Individuals with Disabilities Act and support consumer-driven state plans for the delivery of AT.

While JAN does not endorse or recommend specific vendors and products, there are some specific products worth noting:

  • Tobii Dynavox is an example of a vendor that has some products that may be of interest. For example, Tobii Dynavox has the Lightwriter for mobile calling. 
  • Zygo carries an adaptor that can be used to connect speech-generating devices to an office phone. It is also possible to use many AAC/speech-generating devices via a speakerphone. Learn more at http://aac.textspeak.com/demos/.
  • The sound quality and naturalness of synthetic speech is often a concern, particularly for new users of AAC. There is now a company specializing in customized synthetic voices.
  • Sometimes employees may benefit from merely having their natural voice amplified.

For more information, contact JAN directly. 

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