Interviews regarding the communication aids

I dokument The Growth of Phrases - User-centred Design for Activity-based Voice Output Communication Aids Rydeman, Bitte (sidor 190-194)

10  Four young adults who use AAC, their communication aids and shopping habits

10.2  Interviews regarding the communication aids

At the onset of their participation in the project, all four of the participants took part in a structured interview about their communication aids. For most questions they were presented with a scale with numbers, text and picture signs illustrating the end points of the scale. The participants answered by indicating a number from 1 to 5, either by pointing to the scale with their hand or laser pointer, or through writing a number on their VOCA (see figure 11.1). They also had the opportunity to expand their answers and explain why they had answered in a certain way. For questions where they were asked to order their communication modes from best to worst, or according to how well they were understood when they used them, the participants were shown line drawings that were arranged in order according to their instructions.

The reason why the participants were asked to answer by indicating a number on a scale was to make their answers easy to compare. It also allowed them the opportunity to concentrate on their answers, without having to divert their energy to producing an answer through their AAC systems. They could always extend their answers through using their system, which they did. Using a scale turned out to be an easy and convenient

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was used only in some situations, the Bliss board all the rest of the time. She was probably the one who used her Bliss board the most of all the participants, and her VOCA the least. John, on the other hand, preferred his VOCA over his Bliss board, found the two systems to be equally fast and used his VOCA every day, but only rarely his Bliss board. They all also used pointing with their eyes, their hand (Lisa), or with head-mounted laser pointers (John and Peter).

Table 11.2. Questions about the communication aids at the start of the project  Questions about the communication aids   1.  What do you think about your communication aids? 

Name ( gender) age  1 = very bad  2 = bad 3 = OK 4 = good 5 = very good

David (M) 34    VOCA* Alfa, Bliss  

Lisa (F) 18    VOCA Bliss board

John (M) 22    VOCA, Bliss

Peter (M) 18    VOCA, Bliss

  2. How fast can you use your communication aids? 

  1 = very 


2 = slowly  3 = neither  fast nor slow 

4 = fast  5 = very fast 

David (M) 34    VOCA* Bliss  Alfa  

Lisa (F) 18    VOCA Bliss   

John (M) 22    VOCA, Bliss

Peter (M) 18    VOCA Bliss  

  3. How often do you use your communication aids? 

  1. Never  2. Rarely 3. Every month 4. Every week  5. Every day

David (M) 34      Alfa, VOCA* 

Lisa (F) 18      VOCA, Bliss 

John (M) 22    Bliss VOCA 

Peter (M) 18      VOCA, Bliss

  4. How do you like your different means of communication?  

Range from best to worst. 

  1 = worst    4 5 = best 

David (M) 34  VOCA*  Voice Bliss Alfa, Eyes  (best)

Lisa (F) 18  Speech    VOCA Point Bliss 

John (M) 22  Speech  Laser pointer (5p) Body (5p) Bliss (5p)  VOCA (5p) 

Peter (M) 18  Voice  Laser pointer Eyes VOCA Bliss 

  5. When do people you don’t know understand you best? 

  1 = worst  3 = intermediate 4 5 = best 

David (M) 34  Voice  Eyes, VOCA* Bliss Alfa  

Lisa (F) 18  Speech  Point VOCA Bliss 

John (M) 22  Speech, Body    Bliss VOCA,  

Laser pointer 

Peter (M) 18  Voice  Eyes Laser pointer Bliss VOCA 

  6. When do people you know understand you best? 

  1 = worst  3 = intermediate 4 5 = best 

David (M) 34    Voice VOCA* Bliss, Eyes  Alfa  

Lisa (F) 18  Speech  VOCA Point Bliss   

John (M) 22  Speech (5p)  Body (5p) Laser pointer (5p) Bliss (5p)  VOCA 

Peter (M) 18  Voice  Laser pointer VOCA Bliss Eyes 

*VOCA here means Windows computer with dynamic screens, Bliss means low-tech Bliss board  


All the participants found their AAC systems (high-tech and low-tech) to be useful when talking to strangers, but John and Peter also thought that laser pointers could be useful with people who did not know them well. For communicating with people she knew, Lisa thought that her pointing was more easily understood than her VOCA, and with people they knew well, both David and Peter found that they could get a message through just by using their eyes. Their own voices were not considered useful for delivering a message by any of the participants with any communication partner.

During the interview David stated that speed was very important to him. He found it problematic that his means of communication was so slow, and he said that it was more difficult for strangers to understand him when he used his dynamic screen device than when he used his Alfa. When asked to clarify why that was, he said (by writing on his Alfa):



His other device, called the “Alfa”, had double screens, one facing him and one facing his communication partner. This meant that a person who knew how it worked could follow his messages as they got written on the screen. Despite this, David told the interviewer, who had asked him about his shopping habits, that when he was out on his own he found it difficult to get in contact with people. They did not know that they were supposed to read on the screen, and it took time for him to write, so people would often disappear before he had been able to say anything. Also, he was not always satisfied by the way he got treated by people – some tended to speak over his head and address his assistants instead of him.

The interviews about the participants’ communication aids had a two-fold purpose: to get to know them, and to make them reflect on the ways they communicated with others. As we could see, they had all several different means of communication at their disposal, and it is important to recognize that the VOCAs were just one of the ways the participants used to interact with other people. Most of them considered a VOCA (in David’s case his Alfa) to be the preferred mode of communication with people they did not know, with the exception of Lisa who preferred her Bliss board. The author’s personal experience of communicating with Lisa when she used her Bliss board was that it was quite difficult, because it meant that the communication partner had to move the board all the time, following Lisa’s directions so that she could access all the Bliss signs. It was less stressful for a person who did not know her that well for her to use the VOCA. For David, it was a problem that he did not like the VOCA that he had to use, instead of using the Alfa which he liked. A lot of effort went into trying to amend the problems with his device, to


begin with to change the on-screen keyboard so that the letters were in the same order as in his Alfa device, and other ways to address the things David criticized about the TalkOut. Ultimately, David was referred to a resource centre for communication aids that, among other things, helped him to get a smaller VOCA than the TalkOut 1200 and other software. This happened at the very end of David’s participation in the project.

I dokument The Growth of Phrases - User-centred Design for Activity-based Voice Output Communication Aids Rydeman, Bitte (sidor 190-194)