2001 Conference Proceedings

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THERE'S MORE TO AAC THAN MEETS THE EYE

Krisele Hass
1676 Bush Ave
St. Paul, MN 55106
Phone: (651) 771-6382
Email: Kit1676@aol.com

Background

Of course the most important part of a communication device is the speech output. I live independently and rely on my voice to deal with the everyday business of living. I have found that it isn't enough to have voice output to be a effective communicator. Access to the right words, personal information, text preparation, and operating multiple technologies are of equal importance to an effective communicator. I used to have another device that I was very good with, but I was limited to my core vocabulary. When I started to use my DynaVox, I discovered myself using a different vocabulary, and therefore presenting myself as the intelligent individual I am. To me that is as important as speed. Don't nonverbal people already have a stigma of being slower than they really are.

In My Own Words

Using word prediction and a dictionary to access my vocabulary I'm able to find the exact word I want to use, even if I'm not certain about the spelling. My main page includes the alphabet, 10 predictor buttons and 20 search buttons. The search buttons use prediction to search for generic phrases. I use this page for all of my communicating. If I start to spell a word and it doesn't come up in my word prediction, I go to my dictionary pages. There I pick a category that I think the word is in, the DynaVox than presents a list of words on a page which looks similar to my main page with the alphabet, only it has all search buttons. I sometimes have to play with the letters but usually I find the exact word I want to use. I used to only use words I could spell or that were in my core vocabulary.

The Importance of Quick Access to Personal Information

Because I live independently and I am the only one that knows certain things in my life, I have a lot of personal information programmed right on my DynaVox, which is always in front of me. If I am anywhere and I need to make an appointment , I have my schedule programmed in my DynaVox. With this I can access it fast to either check it , or vocalize what I have scheduled. I can change my schedule in a matter of minutes.

I often go shopping by myself. A lot of these times, I will have people write checks for me. Often they will forget to write in my check register making it hard for me to remember my balance. I have a check register on my DynaVox that I can keep my check book balanced. My check book page looks exactly like yours in your regular check book.

Since I live independently, I have the task of supervising my attendants which is sometimes a full-time job. I spent years frustrated because they wouldn't do their job right and I went without things, my home looked like a mess and I felt awful. Well we developed pages where I can document what they do or not do. I have alarms set so I remember to do the documenting three times a day. I also have other alarms set for easily forgotten cares or tasks.

Another thing that makes me both effective and efficient is the ability to generate text and store it for future use. Before meeting with someone, prior to business calls and to supervise my aides I write a note. With the note I get to the point and remember key issues. With this preparation I am more confident and am able to assert myself. All of these skills are necessary for everybody that lives independently. Don't you take these skills for granted?

The More Assistive Technology the Better

Also we take for granted that communication is a two way street. It is vital that this interaction take place, and more often than not face to face conversation is not an option. Many of my interactions are via telephone or email. These interactions are what really allow me to live independently. Because I am alone a lot, safety is a big concern, not to mention much of the business of daily living occurs on telephone or the computer.

When I am about to make a business call, first I will prepare my main message with the chat mode off, then turn on chat mode type my introduction then go to my address book page get the number dial it, close my address book, do my introduction, and turn off chat mode. With access to my address book I am completely independent in making calls. If people give me a phone number, I turn off chat mode put the name and number there for when I can go into my address book and modify it. Then if I am making a phone call and I need to give my social security number, I can go to my about me popup and I can give it quickly. One important feature for my listeners of my telephone page is the letters are spoken as I spell. Everyone uses a telephone, and more people are using computers. I'm no different. It's just that with these technologies and my DynaVox, I have the tools to live, the ability to work, the ability to relax and more than one-way to get help.

My DynaVox is set up to make computer access quick and easy. I have buttons programmed with short cuts and macros to allow me to open software programs and perform a wide range of functions with a single hit. Although these time savers are vital for my employment, they are essential for my enjoyment. It is no longer work, but a pleasure to play solitaire in my leisure time as I can easily move the cards or start over. I have even used the computer to get someone to call a friend to come and help me because I was stuck in front of my computer without a way to get to the phone.

I enjoy reading for myself, although I prefer to both hear and see text rather than just see it. With my DynaVox I, m able to hear what I'm reading. To keep things private, I store in my DynaVox written text I have received such as snail mail and email. In addition, I have books to read for pleasure and the Bible which allows me to actively participate in church and Bible study. This is done by using DynaVox Software to convert scanned in or stored text into a DynaWrite file. I can than either listen to it while it is on the computer or down load it to my DynaVox to read later. Now whenever I'm waiting, wherever I am, I can read.

Last but not least, I am able to turn on and off lights, my radio, TV, control my thermostat and open and close my front door. What power I have over my environment. I no longer have to sit in the dark or be too hot and by simply opening my front door I can come and go as I please.

Seeing is believing. I have proof an integrated AAC system is possible and functional. My DynaVox is my voice and much more. It is my hands, my pencil and paper, my keyboard and mouse, my remote control, my memory and even my best friend, somebody who is always there for me. With my DynaVox I have been able not only to be independent but take responsibility for myself. To share my success with others I want to demonstrate the features I use to control my life including transferring stored text and computer access. With the demonstration I will explain and share my system.

In this presentation, The participants will learn how to utilize a AAC device in every day activities of a normal life. They will get access to information about how the pages were created and how the presenter uses them in her life.

Bibliography

Krisele Hass lives alone in Saint Paul, Minnesota in her own house. Krisele has been using assistive technology all of her life. Kris is a board member of MNSAAC (Minnesota Society of Augmentative and Alternative Communication and UCP of Minnesota. She has presented locally and nationally as well as internationally at ISAAC.



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