Many app developers have been creating AAC (Augmentative and Alternative Communication) apps and updating the features. Augmentative communication manufacturers such as DynaVox and Tobi ATI offer apps (from free to a couple hundred dollars) vs their hardware AAC devices which can cost thousands of dollars. These expensive devices are designed for individuals with complex communication needs, but inexpensive or free apps are still great for using as basic usage or evaluation as well as getting familiar with augmentative communication equipment. Among some of free apps, For this blog, I picked a text-based AAC app called Verbally, which has been on the market for several years.
Verbally is an app for iPad offered in a free version and an upgrade version is available for $99. It is a text based AAC app (Text to speech) so it is useful for non-verbal individuals who can read and spell, but the app can be useful for teaching how to read or write simple words and sentences. The company website states that Verbally is an invaluable communication aid for people with apraxia, ALS, stroke, traumatic brain injury, cerebral palsy, Parkinson’s, or muscular dystrophy.
When you download this free app, you will see this image with instructions so you can get started right away. This is very nice because you can use it as a quick reference guide by taking a screen capture on your iPad and save it for later use. (Just a note: take a screenshot with your iPad, simply press the Home and Sleep/Wake (Power) buttons at the same time.)
From the settings, you can change the keyboard layout to Horizontal:Qwerty(shown above), Left-Handed: ABCD, and Right-Handed:ABCD (shown below). The free version comes with two voice settings (Rosie and Dave), but you can purchase other voices.
This app offers easy access to the most commonly spoken words and phrases from its tabs. For example, you can select phrases such as “How are you?” or “Nice to see you” from the Phases tab. You can also construct a sentence from the Words tab by pressing each word. For example, you press; I, need, help, and press the Speak button, then you hear the speech output, “I need help”.
The Verbally app also provides a word prediction feature to help your typing independently. With the Paid version, you can create and save your favorite phrases and organize your favorites into your own customized categories based on location, audience, and situation.
I found the free Verbally app useful as a simple communication tool if you do not need to customize and save a large set of communication categories or do not need complex communication in various environments. You can find more information at the website, Verbally or download the free app from App store.