Communication is a human right. It is recognized that people with mobility disabilities have a right to physical access within the built environment, and, in the same way, people with communication disabilities must have access to alternative methods of communication. One of the pillars of the Accessible Canada ACT is to ensure “accessible digital content and technologies,” however standards for augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) technologies do not exist.
AAC technologies and strategies assist individuals with speech, language, or communication impairments to express their thoughts, needs, feelings, and ideas, and are used in conjunction with a device, such as a tablet or laptop, to generate speech or text. Examples of AAC include, but are not limited to, picture communication boards, line drawings, speech-generating devices (SGDs), tangible objects or eye-gaze technology.
With the goal of remedying this lack of standardization, researchers from Queen’s University Claire Davies (Mechanical and Materials Engineering) and Beata Batorowicz (School of Rehabilitation Therapy), conducted a multi-year research study to inform the development of recommendations and guidelines to impact and improve the use of AAC technologies and devices. In doing so, they hope to increase the employment potential of persons with disabilities by developing guidelines that produce more inclusive, universal, and effective AAC devices.
Project findings will provide the research team and Accessible Standards Canada with invaluable insight into the day-to-day needs of people who use or can benefit from AAC technologies. The hope is that these insights will guide the development of AAC technology standards to ensure optimal effectiveness of devices and to aid in making suggestions for policy change around access to AAC devices, evaluation for AAC devices, and inclusivity when hiring/working with persons who use AAC devices.
As a supporting project partner, the Accessibility Institute shared the opportunity to participate in the project’s focus groups, interviews, and surveys with individuals with lived and living experience through the Canadian Accessibility Network (CAN) and acted as a knowledge mobilization partner to help disseminate research findings both within the CAN and Research Impact Canada.
Visit the Accessibility Standards Canada Augmentative and Alternative Communication Project webpage for more information.
This project was funded by Accessibility Standards Canada.
For inquiries about the Accessibility Institute and the Canadian Accessibility Network’s involvement in this project, please contact Boris Vukovic.