Spectrum of Assistive Technology for Communication Impairments

Type of AAC TechnologyCharacteristicsExamplesAdvantagesDisadvantages
Low-techUses paper, plastic or similar materialsSimple picture/word boards or cards; PECS; eye-gaze picture board; visual scheduler or planner; adapted pens/pencilsUsually low cost; portable; personal; training is quick; readily acceptable to listener; rugged; no need for power supplyVery limited speed; very limited vocabulary; unable to use for long-distance communication
Mid-techUses batteries for voice, text, or light outputLighted on/off devices; “wrist communicator” (eg, with 2–10 stored vocal outputs); keyboard with display or printer; scanning light board (eg, with pictures)Low-to-moderate cost; usually portable; usually personally owned; training is moderate; usually acceptable to listener; occasionally can use for limited long-distance communicationLimited speed; limited vocabulary; limited distance communication; power supply needed
High-techMicrocircuits and microcomputer technologyAdapted laptop computers; commercially available VOCAs (dynamic displays, touch pads, or keyboards); individualized devices that use special inputs (eg, eye blinks)Ease of progressing in skill levels; able to carry out extensive and efficient conversations; usually portable; often can use for long-distance communication (eg, telephone); able to connect to other devices (eg, for access to computer or for environmental control)Moderate to very high cost; sometimes is not personally owned; power supply needed; training often extensive; listeners may need to have training
  • See text for more details on some devices.