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While the journey of augmentative and alternative communication, or AAC, begins for some in childhood, it’s an incredible option for adults as well. Individuals with language difficulties acquired through injury or disease may communicate on their AAC device screen through access methods such as eye gaze, head tracking, or switch scanning. 

Being able to access your AAC vocabulary consistently and accurately determines how well a user will communicate. While some individuals use direct touch (with the help of Keyguards and TouchGuides) to activate vocabulary buttons, others need additional technology. Here’s an overview of three common AAC access methods: 

  • Eye gaze technology 
  • Head tracking 
  • Single and multiple switch control 

Eye gaze technology 

Eye gaze, sometimes referred to as eye tracking, is ideal for adults who need hands-free device access. How does it work? By continually tracking the movement of the user’s pupil (the center part of the eye), users have full control of the device. Keys are selected by gazing for a specified time, blinking, or activating a switch to generate speech. Eye gaze systems can be calibrated as needed to increase accuracy for the specific communicator, and it works with most eyeglasses and contact lenses. 

Head tracking 

Head tracking is an effective access solution for those who have limited or no use of their hands. Some devices use optical sensors to track a small reflective dot on the user’s forehead, glasses, or other convenient spot, allowing the user to control the device. Other devices use a camera to capture the movement of the individual’s head and turn it into cursor motion. Key activations are made by dwelling over the desired key, activating a switch, or in some cases performing a facial gesture such as smiling or raising your eyebrows. Additional movement settings help customize control of the cursor to optimize the user’s accuracy and ease of use. 

Single and multiple switch control 

Many AAC devices are compatible with a wide variety of switches that can be activated by a hand, knee, elbow, foot, or other body part to control a device. Switch scanning allows the user to select the message by activating a switch at the moment the desired word, letter, or symbol is highlighted. Switches can be wired or wireless and can be adjusted to accommodate a broad range of physical abilities. 

It’s likely you have more questions or wonder which access method is best for you. Your local PRC-Saltillo consultant is just a phone call or email away to discuss access options and other accessories like joysticks and mounts. Find your local consultant by zip code and reach out today! 

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