I loved this scene from season 5 of Malcolm in the Middle.


Malcolm and Stevie

Stevie has stopped talking in this episode and is using an AAC device.

Would an AAC device in real life survive that sprinkler?

Would an AAC device in real life survive that sprinkler?

Stevie: (with computer) Thanks, Malcolm, that is what I really needed to hear.
Malcolm: Oh, good.
Stevie: (with computer) This thing sucks at sarcasm.

It’s funny because it’s true!


AAC in the news

March 30, 2009

Click me

Click me

Watch this video from the Today Show.


Augie’s system that he was using before the eye-gaze system is Dasher. He can continue to use Dasher with the new Dynavox eye-gaze system. If the current system is working for him, I hope he does.

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Mintpad (proto-Siftable?)

March 25, 2009

Wow! Right after I repost the Siftable video, this thing is announced for release in the U.S.

Mintpad tablet device

Mintpad tablet device

I could see this thing replacing the BigMack or Step-by-Step devices. They’re about the same price and a million times more adaptable and capable.

Get the price down to $50 and use their networking capabilities to make an ad-hoc network with one another and you’ve almost got Siftables.

I think this is one of those technologies that the manufacturer is going to be astonished at what the end-user ends up doing with their product. The applications they are planning for this are all wrong. This thing is destined to be an interactive toy or an accessory to a more powerful central device. If I ran an AAC company, I’d be pushing to get the price down to $50 each and I’d sell them in packs of 6 or 9.

Engadget writes about Mintpad


Official website.


March 24, 2009

Let’s repost this with the video.

Does an AAC device have to be a single device? What about an array of devices?

I look at this and think of blocks that are also an AAC device. Embedding communication into the play context is the key to authentic interaction. Dividing attention between the play context and a separate communication device is a barrier.

Brian Crecente, a video game blogger, gentleman and scholar, wrote a column about how The Master herself, Maria Montessori influenced the design of Wil Wright‘s video games. (You may not know his name, but you probably are familiar with his masterpiece, Sim City).

The Great Sensei herself

The Great Sensei herself

Constructivist education practices are all over Sim City, the other Sim games, the digital dollhouse (and best-selling video game ever) The Sims, and the recent release Spore. Sim City is practically an object lesson in How It Is Done.

Just like a big box of wooden blocks, there is great pleasure to be gained from carefully balancing and building a city or anthill or human being up and then knocking it over (although Wright gives us tools such as meteors, earthquakes, tornadoes, and removing the ladders from swimming pools). There really is no way to win or lose a Sim game. In exploring, building and breaking, you learn a lot. Montessori would be delighted!

SimCity. Montessori would have loved this.

SimCity. Montessori would have loved this.

Test for accessibility

March 20, 2009

So I ran this blog through this automated app that tests sites for Section 508 compliance. I passed.

However, I think I can do better. Especially with color choice, since brown-on-tan isn’t terribly high-contrast. And the default font size is quite small. People with vision impairments but not total blindness might have difficulty with the default stylesheet.

More on this later…

Free Range Kids

March 18, 2009

Here is a blog I have discovered recently and I have developed a tremendous amount of respect for.


I’m amazed that kids have less freedom to do things than when I was a kid.

I keep thinking that this “helicopter parenting” where children have an adult hovering over them all the time is itself a form of disability. Parents who think, “I know that he’ll probably be okay, but why take the risk?” are making the false assumption that parotecting kids from all harm isn’t harming them.

It all ties in to the Constructivist theory of development. We learn from mistakes and the natural consequences thereof. We learn from doing things by ourselves or by collaborating with our peers. Most importantly, we learn when our support structures are removed. Failure to remove the scaffolding places an artificial ceiling on the Zone of Proximal Development.

Just a thought: A kid with a disability who is allowed to play wiffle-ball in the empty lot down the street is a lot less disabled than the typical kid who isn’t allowed to because of ZOFG strangers!!!!

“That’s not fair”

March 15, 2009

I don’t know how to embed TED talks in WordPress, so click on this link and watch the video. Then come back here.

The key to using technology to overcome disabilities is to not try to duplicate the functioning of a “normal” person, but to give people capacities that they wouldn’t ordinarily have had.

AAC devices are not, and will never be, a “prosthetic voice” no matter how hard we work on designing them. We’re artificially limiting ourselves by trying. We can do better. We can make AAC a more powerful communication method.

Update: YouTube saves the day

…according to researchers from University of Washington, Seattle Children’s Hospital, Harvard Medical School, and Boston Children’s Hospital in August issue of Pediatrics.

No f!*#ing kidding. Really? </sarcasm>


Gizmodo says it better.

Please don't buy this crap.

Please don't buy this crap.

Remember the thing about the baby carriages? I know that a some point, carriage makers will use that to guilt parents into buying their product.

So much of marketing of baby products is about generating and assuaging guilt. I’ll address this again in the future when I’m feeling less annoyed (the whole Kindle thing has me all poised for ranting).

Here is my issue with the Author’s Guild— synthesized speech is a “derivative work” to them. As in, an interpretation of an author’s words and not the author’s words themselves.

Amazon's Kindle 2 e-book

Amazon's Kindle 2 e-book

So what are the implications of such an idea on AAC users? We’ve been holding to the philosophy that the AAC user is the originator and that the AAC output is that person’s “voice.”

So, if Kindle’s output isn’t the authors’ words, what is AAC output? Is it really the person’s words or some derivative of it?

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