Congratulations to Assistiveware. The Netherlands-based company announced yesterday that its Proloquo2Go smartphone application won the 2011 “Best App Ever” award in the Special Needs category. While the award name suits the hyperbolic nature of online culture, the process by which the award winners are determined is kept pretty pure — especially by online awards standards — and there is no disputing the app’s value to the people with disabilities who use it in their workplaces, classrooms, and social lives.
Proloquo2Go is an augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) system for people who cannot speak or have difficulty communicating. Proloquo2Go was initially designed as software for the Apple Computer operating system. The Proloquo2Go.com history page says it was first introduced as an app in 2009 and is now available for all of Apple’s mobile devices. (Its FAQ encourages users of non-Apple mobile devices to find similar solutions by other companies for those platforms.)
Like other AAC devices, users can pre-program common sentences and phrases to facilitate everyday communication. Proloquo2Go is lauded for features that automate verb conjugation, and plurals and possessives for nouns. It also offers a high degree of customization; users can add new vocabulary with the push of a single button, as well as choose from male or female voices that emulate a child or adult. This tutorial video provides a good introduction to all the features and functions, while actually using the Proloquo2Go app to narrate:
Testimonials from Proloquo2Go users also focus on the social aspect of the product. While some young people with disabilities have been reluctant to use AAC devices for fear that they will single them out as different, the fact that this is a smartphone app offers a conversation piece with their peers. A woman named Krista talks about how her son, Ryan, endeared himself to his older brother’s friends thanks to Proloquo2go:
They were intrigued that this ‘little kid’ was using a cool iPod touch to talk!! Instead of ignoring him completely, they included him in what they were doing.
Proloquo2go was also in the news this week as part of a demonstration of smartphone applications that can help educate children with autism. Dr. David F. Cihak of the University of Tennessee reviewed a number of apps for students during the school’s weekly UT Science Forum, which was covered by Justin Joo for the UT Daily Beacon. Joo writes:
While the product… is designed to help anyone who has trouble communicating, Cihak said that it works very well with helping autistic children who have trouble conveying exactly what they want to say.
We’ve looked at other AAC devices in this space during previous posts. Please share any experiences you have with this technology in comments section.