Perhaps you have a family member or friend who has lost the ability to speak or you know someone who has had a long term difficulty and now seems the right time to explore this equipment. Anyone with a physical disability, loss of function, or reduced function due to an injury, cognitive issues, learning difficulty, rehabilitation need or age-related issue may benefit from assistive technology.
Zyteq specialises in speech generating devices for communication and other adaptive technology. Generally this field is known as 'assistive technology'.
What is Assistive Technology (AT)?
The World Health Organisation (WHO) outlines Assistive Technology as follows:
Assistive devices allow people with loss of function, to enhance their abilities, live independently and participate more fully in their societies.
Assistive devices include:
- Devices for moving such as wheelchairs, orthoses, prostheses, rollators/walking frames and tricycles;
- Devices for sitting/standing including special chairs, seating support, pressure relief devices such as cushions, etc.;
- Devices for daily living such as for eating and drinking, dressing, washing oneself, writing, housekeeping and handling objects;
- Devices for hearing such as hearing aids and battery chargers;
- Devices for seeing such as magnifiers, Braille devices (writing, reading, printing, etc.), text reading devices, screen readers, etc.;
- Devices for cognition such as time management devices and systems and memory devices;
- Devices for communication and orientation such as communication boards, GPS, software and accessible Information and communications technology (ICT);
- Devices for recreation, employment and vocational training.
Ref: World Health Organisation (link to website)
The World Health Organisation Disability and Rehabilitation WHO Action Plan 2006-2011 states:
"An estimated 10% of the world’s population experience some form of disability or impairment. The number of people with disabilities is increasing due to population growth, ageing, emergence of chronic diseases and medical advances that preserve and prolong life. The most common causes of Impairment and disability include chronic diseases such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease (stroke) and cancer; injuries such as those due to road traffic crashes, conflicts, falls, landmines, mental Impairments, birth defects, malnutrition, and communicable diseases".
Zyteq specialises in AT in the following areas:
Speech Generating Devices
Speech Generating Devices (SGD) assist with communication where an individual's natural speech is not understood in some or many situations. The equipment and systems used by people who have speech difficulties may be an alternative form of communication and usually augments the modes of communication they may still be able to use. The terminology used to refer to the systems used is 'augmentative and alternative communication' (AAC). The devices are also called Voice Output Communication Aids (VOCA), Alternative and Augmentative Communication (AAC) devices, High Tech communication aids, "talkers", Electronic Communication Devices (ECD), communication aids, SGDs may be based on Windows tablet computers, or they may be "designed for purpose" devices ranging from simple single message devices through to sophisticated devices requiring spelling of the message to be spoken.
Many people rely on the internet, email, phone contact, social media and SMS daily. Assistive Technology can provide a rage of access methods to these functions, and many are now integrated into the Speech Generating Devices.
This is equipment to assist with accessing the computer, if the individual has difficulty using the standard keyboard and mouse. The computer may be a desktop, notebook or tablet, or a mobile device. The individual may or may not have speech difficulties. Some Speech Generating Devices can perform many computer functions in addition to its use for communication. It is common, however for children and adults to have a desktop computer, notebook or mainstream tablet for education, employment or leisure. Access to a computer may be enhanced through use of specialised software and/or hardware. Standard keyboards can be modified by keyguards, and use of Windows Ease of Access features. Keyboards may be substituted with mini, large, membrane or other specialised keyboards. Keyboard access may be achieved through use of a pointer, head-pointer or mouth-stick. In place of a standard mouse, or specialised mouse, trackball, joystick or mouse emulation may be used. Mouse emulation techniques include head tracking and eye gaze control, which are access methods which do not require use of fingers or pointers. Almost any movement can be matched with a suitable switch to enable access to the computer via a switch or switches and scanning. Switches can be connected to a computer via specialised USB interfaces. Specialized software provides onscreen keyboards and enhanced selection strategies in combination with compatible hardware. A range of specialized access options is also available for iOS devices (iPads, iPhones and iPodTouch) and other mobile platforms.
Environment Control:Home Automation
A range of equipment called Environmental Control Units (ECU) is designed for people who have difficulty using standard remote controls to operate appliances such as TV, Foxtel, Air conditioning, hi-fi, DVD etc. Many of the Speech Generating Devices have this function built in. Stand-alone devices are also available. Any appliance that has a standard infra-red remote control can readily have had its codes transferred to a specialised ECU. The stand-alone ECU devices may be operated by switch/es and scanning. ECU transmitters are available to connect to computers via USB. This permits ECU operation through any of the computer access methods, including eye gaze control, head tracking or switch/scanning.
Other equipment areas include specialised software, voice amplification and accessories for the major systems.
Finding the most suitable Assistive Technology
Alternative and Augmentative Communication - Speech Generating Devices
There are many steps to finding the most suitable communication device and assistive technology for an individual. Sometimes it can be a long process and often the time can be well spent in making an informed decision with all the necessary 'homework' carried out. In some cases time may be of the essence and there is an urgency to find a solution. It is not uncommon for the entire process to take up to one year however. Sometimes it may be accomplished in a few weeks. A general principal of 'best practice' is that people should always have a non-electronic (low tech) system in addition to an electronic system with voice for communication. Examples of such systems are, photo board, word board, eye-gaze board, picture dictionary and so on. See your local Speech Pathologist for advice on these options. Even if a person in unable to speak, the Speech Pathologist is the professional best placed to assist with AAC, as their training covers all aspects of communication, not just speech.
Here is a description of the typical process people experience when seeking speech generating devices for communication. Of course each situation will be unique but there will be the usual constraints of trial equipment availability and funding. While this is 'typical' there are many situations that may not follow this path. This is not prescriptive in any way, merely informative.
1. Usually the first port of call is to contact the Assistive Technology Service in your state. These services usually have devices available from a wide range of companies. They offer impartial advice about the most suitable equipment for an individual and there may be an opportunity to try the equipment. Some services have equipment libraries offering short-term trial. These centres are usually staffed by therapists (usually Speech Pathologist and Occupational Therapists) who can assist in matching the individual's needs with the available equipment.
2. Many Speech Pathologists may have the expertise to provide this type of advice without the need for attending an assistive technology centre. It is usually important to have a primary Speech Pathologist or Occupational Therapist to assist in the selection process. Your Speech Pathologist or Occupational Therapist can also borrow equipment from Zyteq for you to try; or they can arrange for Zyteq Speech Pathologists to make a visit with our equipment, so it can be discussed and tried in your Speech Pathology session. We can conduct a Skype session with the Speech Pathologist and AAC user and discuss options.
3. Once an initial evaluation is completed the next step is usually to borrow the equipment so that it can be trialled for a week or so. Several devices may be borrowed and compared. Comparisons should not just be made in terms of how the person uses the device, but also in terms of its reliability, ease of use and the level of support it requires, and whether the support people can manage the necessary support, for example in setting it up, updating/programming, maintaining and charging it. Trialling a device is often a requirement in order to access the government funding available.
4. After the trials, it is time to make a decision about the preferred device and then set about obtaining one. Usually a Speech Pathologist can assist with funding application procedures. A Speech Pathologist's report and recommendation may be required in the application for funding.
Devices may be obtained in the following way:
- Sometimes organisations can provide members with devices on long-term loan, for example some Motor Neurone Disease Associations,
- some states have funding for devices if you meet the criteria
- some people either buy privately with their own funds or
- some seek private funding through service clubs or other avenues.
- some people are eligible for funding through the Department of Veterans Affairs, private insurance funds or motor accident insurers. Again criteria apply and you will need to seek these out locally as conditions tend to vary from state to state.
- Once funding is obtained the device may be purchased or supplied by an organisation that has purchased it for the user.
How Zyteq can help ?
- we can discuss our equipment and help you understand the different features
- the website has the most up-to-date information about all our products
- we offer evaluation and consultancy services
- we provide equipment demonstrations around the country. Please contact us to make a request or register your interest. We also have resellers in some states so they may be able to assist.
- we provide equipment for short-term loan for the purpose of trialling
- we sell equipment either directly or through our resellers
- once you have equipment from Zyteq we may be able to provide training when we are in your area. We can provide assistance over the phone or by email or Skype. Installation, set-up and training packages may also be purchased.
Process & Terminology
If the product names and descriptions are not meaningful to you the following are guidelines to help direct you to the most appropriate information contained here. It is presumed you are exploring options for someone you know or work with.
1. Does the person have difficulties with functional speech for day to day communication?
Yes › please see question 2 below (equipment for people who need augmentative and alternative communication [AAC] systems)
No › see the categories below that relate to equipment for people with physical disabilities and cognitive challenges for independence.
Sometimes › if the person has low volume or variable volume speech Zavox Reo may be of interest. These devices simply make speech louder.
2. For communication — can the person spell what they want to say (perhaps by writing or pointing to an alphabet board or by eye pointing to letters)?
No › if the person is unable to spell what they wish to communicate they may be using a picture communication system or signing or perhaps they do not have a system. The individual may be able to spell some words, recognize or read whole words, or find the starting letter of some words. You may like to investigate the Smart 2, Zingui, Powerbox MOTION, Tellus 4 or Mobi 2. People who do not want to use a touchscreen display but need more 'concrete' pictures or symbols to represent the messages may be interested in the Talara, Talk Trac, SuperTalker or Proxtalker.
3. Can the person point with their fingers and press keys? Or does the person prefer to use some type of pointer such as a hand-held pointer or head-pointer?
Yes › refer to question 2 as these systems can all be operated in this way (by direct access)
No › some devices or models can be operated by a switch and scanning or other methods of access. This means that it is not necessary to have use of fingers and hands to operate the equipment. If the person has a reliable and consistent movement, even with foot, or chin or a minimal muscle movement, then many of the communication devices and tablets can be operated by activating a switch with just this movement. Of the equipment listed above many offer switch access also. You can see the available switches at this web site and there are many others from other companies, which can be used with our equipment. Eye gaze is one of the newer technologies available for operating computers and speech generating devices such as the Tellus 4 Intelligaze.
4. Does the person have a physical disability where assistance is required with day to day tasks such as changing the TV channel, volume etc?