APP2Speak—Powerful Assistive Technology for People Who Cannot Speak: One User’s Story


Every once in a while, we get a story from an APP2Speak user that’s so good we just have to share it with you, so that’s what today’s blog post will be about.

Before we share the story itself, here’s a little backstory:

Joanna W., a college student in an Occupational Therapy Rehabilitation Techniques class at Pueblo Community College in Colorado reached out to me recently with an interesting request.

Photo of an Occupational therapy assistant studentShe had been given a class project and was assigned a disability and a diagnosis (like stroke or brain injury), that required AAC, adaptive or durable medical equipment to be used. The instructor assigned “non-verbal” as her disability.

The students were then to go out into the community and “live” with that disability for four consecutive hours, both at home and within the community, then write a paper about the experience, (ordering food/dining out at a restaurant, shopping, taking public transportation, etc).

Joanna did some online research and found APP2Speak. She thought it would be the perfect speech impairment app for her to use during her four-hour assignment. So, she reached out to me, and I walked her through the basics of using the app.

After she finished her assignment, we had a quick Zoom call to talk about her experience.

Here’s her story, as she related it to me:

It was an overwhelmingly positive experience, being in the community, seeing how people reacted and stepped in to try to help out as much as possible.

I started out by having a little phrase programmed in, saying, “Hi. I’m not able to speak today, so I’m using this app to help me communicate.” And as soon as I did that, I just pointed that I was going to write my next message. Some I had already prepared, but others I just had to do right then.

I took an aerial yoga class for the first time that day, so I had to check in at the Welcome Center and then check in with the instructor. The guy at the Welcome Center was super helpful. I ended up using a combination of the text-to-speech feature, as well as showing him on my phone what I was saying. I found that people interacted better when they were able to hear the app and see the words on the screen at the same time.

And then, when I went into the aerial yoga class, I did the same thing with the instructor, and it was amazing how immediately she started speaking slower, looking me in the eye, and being just more engaging in general—though it was interesting, because speaking slower doesn’t necessarily help (laughs). But she just wanted to make sure that she was being helpful, so I took it that way.

She told me that she used to be a singer and had to go on complete voice rest once, so she understood what it was like not being able to speak. 

Another nice thing happened at the yoga class. I had prepared the app ahead of time to introduce myself (“Hi. My name is Joanna.”) and one of the other students in the class heard me play that for the instructor, so she came over and introduced herself to me. It was really nice!

I had another interesting experience when I went to Mod Pizza for lunch. The lady taking my order asked me if I knew how to sign. I shook my head “No,” but the fact that she asked was nice.

While I was ordering, the manager came over to the lady taking my order and asked if she needed a hand, supporting her. She just said, “No. I’ve got it.”

When I went to pay, I think maybe she thought I couldn’t hear because she didn’t speak to me at all, but she pointed to two different sized cups, asking what size I wanted for my soda. I didn’t actually want a soda, but she was so kind, I went ahead and got one.

When she brought my pizza out to me, she also brought a picture board of all the sauces they had so I could point to which I wanted. It was very thoughtful.

I also Facetimed with my niece on an iPad during this experience and I had my iPhone do the communicating through the iPad. We talked for about 10 minutes. I had prepared some stories ahead of time, and it worked, though there was, for sure, a delay.

The whole experience just put me into the shoes of someone who can’t speak. The app certainly helps you to communicate. And I found that, using my iPhone instead of a tablet was more comfortable because it’s more discreet. Plus, people are used to interacting with other people’s phones all the time nowadays (showing each other pictures or texts, for example) so it all seemed kind of natural.

Overall, it was an interesting experience and much more enjoyable than I thought it would be. People were genuinely stepping up to the plate, which I thought was really nice.

Listening to Joanna’s story, I had two big takeaways:

  1. On the positive side, Joanna’s experience really does show how helpful AAC technology like APP2Speak can be for people who cannot speak. She had no prior experience with the app other than me giving her a quick demonstration before her assignment and she was able to communicate adequately in a variety of ways and settings. While not being able to speak is always going to cause some challenges no matter what technology you use, you can definitely live a full, complete life and you don’t have to hide away from socializing.
  2. On the somewhat less positive side, people who cannot speak are always going to have to interact with people who don’t fully understand the situation. As Joanna stated, most of the people she encountered really “stepped up to the plate” and tried to be nice and helpful. On the other hand, the yoga instructor spoke more slowly and loudly and the lady helping her at the pizza place apparently assumed that, just because she couldn’t talk, that she also couldn’t hear. Unfortunately, these kinds of misunderstandings are common. But if you just accept that you’ll need to clear up some misconceptions as you interact with people, you can keep a positive attitude about it (as Joanna did) and enjoy life just like anyone else.

I hope you enjoyed hearing Joanna’s story. If you have a story about how you’ve used APP2Speak, I’d love to hear it. Just reach out to me on the Contact page.

And if you or someone you know has trouble speaking and they haven’t yet tried APP2Speak, I’d love to demonstrate how it works. Just reach out to schedule your free demonstration.