Making Voice Recognition and Translation Easy with Trabasack


Voice Recognition Software – What is it any good for?

When the first true voice recognition software (VR) packages started to become available in the 1990s they offered the possibility of increased productivity by virtue of faster-than-typing dictate capabilities, and the potential to operate a computer almost solely with spoken commands. The potential for the disabled to be able to access computing power, as well as giving businesses a huge boost in productivity was obvious, but the reality of the low-quality products failed to live up to expectations. The dream was actually bit of a nightmare with retyping mistakes a routine event.

Translation software Becomes Reliable

The programming structure and database construction set up for VR lent their architecture to a new and highly accurate translation software that was capable of the translation of languages quickly and easily. But the correct use of structure, rules, and idiom in multiple languages is significantly more complex than resolving spoken words and printing them on a page, and these systems too require the highest quality peripherals to ensure that linguistics are understood and correctly translated. It is an issue when carrying out casual translation, but becomes a much greater issue when being used professionally such as in legal or technical applications.

Now, twenty years later, voice recognition and translation software packages have been honed to become an effective and usable tools for business and the disabled alike. Commercial VR and translation applications have become accurate programs with huge databases covering words, phrases and syntax combinations encompassing most of English and almost every other language in the World. Crucially, however, the hardware needed to interface the programs had also increased in quality, and therefore accuracy, over the same time period, and the two pronged approach increased the sensitivity and value of the programs enormously.

However, modern headsets with built-in microphones can be bulky pieces of equipment but they are necessary to get the most accurate delivery to your voice recognition software and it is essential that they are kept in good condition, so that means that they need to be stored and transported in appropriate way to ensure that they remain free from damage. Transporting technology like that around safely and equally as importantly, comfortably for the user becomes a bit of a task, but the range from Trabasack, makes it light work of all the extra gear.

Transporting Issues? No problem.


The Trabasack range go far beyond the normal model used for computer cases and are designed to be used in challenging situations that require specials features, such as those found with wheelchair users. This situation in particular offers particular problems as the user has to have everything with them, and be able to put it all together and operate it in a small area such as their lap. The architecture of the Trabasack Curve and Trabasack Curve Connect Trabasack products promotes such use, having purposely curved edges that allow the bag to sit comfortably on the lap, creating a sturdy surface for the computer to be rested on, and with well-lined equipment pockets for headsets and speakers, anyone can carry all the items they need around safely, in comfort and without risk of damage. For those needing more carrying capability, the Trabasack Max is a very high quality product with plenty of room for equipment.



But the Trabasack range are equally as useful to the business traveller, who may find that they need to carry equipment for VR and translation software onto aircraft and use it in the confined space of an aircraft seat. Additionally, they may need an ever higher specification headset to allow crystal-clear pick-up in low voice situations; neither the traveller nor the other passengers want to be in a position of having constant dictation being heard!! Once again, the Trabasack bags offer a firm work surface in a small package that is small enough for even the most room-conscious airlines, while offering complete safety in transporting expensive equipment.

Whether you suffer from some disability or not, the range of bags from Trabasack are more than capable of dealing with the equipment that you need to take with you to get the most out of your voice recognition and translation software.

Author Bio

Mike Parsons works for a translation company who deal in Localization, Translation and interpretation. He enjoys writing in his spare time and gets the opportunity to travel a lot in his work hours.

How Does Stephen Hawking Talk?

Stephen Hawking The Theory of Everything

The Official Film Post

With the release of the Hollywood movie The Theory of Everything, looking back on the early life of Professor Stephen Hawking, the famed theoretical physicist known for his impressive body of work as well as the fact he lives with the degenerative motor neuron disease. The film reached the UK on January 1st and has been popular so far.

With this renewed interest in Professor Hawking, his work and life, we thought we’d take a closer look at his communication aids and how he is actually able to speak. With no verbal skills remaining, Hawking has used computer technology for speech synthesis for many years and we have discussed previously in our discussion of Klatt’s Last Tape, a BBC Radio documentary that featured Hawking’s daughter and a discussion of his role in the development of speech synthesis. Here we’re taking it a step further and discussing the question in more depth, exactly how does Stephen Hawking talk? Before that we’re taking a little look at Motor Neuron Disease and how it affects those living with it.

What is Motor Neuron Disease?

Trabasaxon Liam with Stephen Hawking

Trabasaxon Liam with Stephen Hawking

Motor Neuron Disease (MND) is a progressive disease that affects the nerves in the brain and spinal cord. Professor Hawking received his diagnosis aged 21 and there are many individuals living with the disease across the UK and around the world, including our Trabasaxon pal Liam Dwyer (pictured with Hawking) and it’s a disease which there is surprisingly little awareness of.

MND affects different people in different ways. It affects the way individuals walk, talk, eat, drink and breathe but it’s very rare that all the affects come on at once or in any particular order and not all individuals with MND get all symptoms. There is no cure for MND and symptoms are managed on an individual basis, this video shows Liam discussing MND in depth and how he works to raise awareness, using his own speech synthesiser:

Stephen Hawking and MND

As we said, Stephen Hawking received his diagnosis of MND aged 21 and soon began to require crutches to walk before a wheelchair. Stephen Hawking first began using his computer speech synthethiser in the 1980s and although there have been many developments since its first installation, the system remains very similar.

Hawking also uses a wheelchair and requires nursing support due to MND and whilst he originally didn’t want to focus on his disability he began working in the disability sector in the 1990s, providing a role model and an example of what can be achieved, however severe a disability you have. He is committed to the protection of disabled rights and got his family involved in the viral Ice Bucket Challenge in 2013, supporting MND awareness.

How does Stephen Hawking Talk?

Stephen Hawking Speech Synthesis

Professor Hawking giving a speech at NASA

Now, back to the main issue, since opting for speech synthesis how has Stephen Hawking managed to speak? Hawking doesn’t use text-to-speech or input anything into a keyboard physically so his speech synthesis is entirely based upon facial movements. It’s a revolutionary system which was developed with Hawking in mind but can be adapted for other users with similar needs.

Hawking communicates via a computer system which is mounted to his wheelchair and powered by the same batteries that keep his power chair going. The speech synthesis works through a specific programme called EZ Keys which gives Hawking an on-screen software keyboard. A cursor is present and moves automatically across the keyboard in rows or columns and Hawking is able to select character through moving his cheek to stop the cursor, getting the character he needs.

The technology is extremely advanced yet seems so simple. Hawking’s cheek movements are detected by an infrared switch which is mounted onto his glasses and that single switch is the only connection he has with the computer. EZ Keys has also been developed with word predictive capabilities meaning Hawking often types one or two letters before getting the word he needs, thus speeding up the speech process and making it less laborious than it could be.

To save time Hawking also has a bank of stored sentences and phrases for regular use, helping conversation flow and allowing him to give speeches based on pre-recorded sentences and statements. Hawking has tried other methods of switch to access his speech synthesis including Brain Controlled Interfaces, but the cheek movements are the most consistent and effective for his needs.

This video gives a concise and straightforward explanation of how Stephen Hawking talks, in his own words:

Stephen Hawking’s choice of speech synthesis is completely unique to his needs. Some of the more common speech synthesisers on the market, used regularly by people with a range of different disabilities include the Lightwriter, the Eyegaze Edge and the many software and technology options through CereProc, a company who specialise in text-to-speech and more innovative forms of speech synthesis.

The Theory of Everything

The Theory of Everything received much critical claim and has been a real success, with both the lead actors receiving praise for the sensitivity and genuine portrayal of their roles. The film was made as an adaptation of the memoir Travelling to Infinity: My Life with Stephen by Jane Wild Hawking, Hawking’s ex-wife who he is still close to and portrays the period in which Hawking received and tried to manage his diagnosis as well as his ground-breaking work in his field.

We asked Liam Dwyer (follow Liam on twitter) to review the film for us:

I thought the acting and the way Stephen Hawking was played was amazing. Eddie Redmayne played the part so well I thought it was Stephen Hawking. Felicity Jones played Jane great and she showed just what a wife/carer has to go through looking after a person. It was good to hear her side of the story too.

Here is the official film trailer to get a taste for it:

Stephen Hawking’s life and work is remarkable and this new film is a testament to that. It’s also fantastic to see how the developments in speech synthesis that he trials and tests are advancing the science for people in general, providing many more people with the opportunity to speak.

You may be interested in a revealing BBC interview by Jane Hawking about her life as a carer and wife of Steven and her book “Travelling to Infinity” on which the film is based.

Comments on this post from Assistive Technology Professionals:

Simon Churchill

He ‘talks’ using a voice output communication aid. For more information about them see speech generating devices. The film The Theory of Everything fudges the software he uses, as he uses a scanning technique which generates words at a far slower rate than was seen in the film, and the scanning software was not shown, presumably because the general public might not understand its use. A brilliant film, but it does deviate from the truth somewhat in this regard.

Hector Minto

Agreed Simon Churchill. Not sure I would describe it as advanced.

Denis Anson

It should also be observed that the system that Stephen Hawking uses is highly personalized, and may not be useful to anyone else on the planet. Hawking is arguably the most brilliant mind living, and, when he could still vocalize to some extent, would compose entire technical papers and books in his head, then dictate them to the one or two assistants who could understand him. His system 1) has his highly idiosyncratic vocabulary in it, and 2) uses abbreviations that he has learned, that most of us probably couldn’t make sense of.

A number of years ago, he spoke at University of Washington, while I was on faculty there. I was not able to attend the talk, but the reports that I heard were that, for his presentation, which was prepared in advance, he communicated at normal speeds. But for the question and answer session, the audience had to wait for him to compose his answers. Because he was Hawking, they would wait, but it was very slow.

David Selover

All of your comments are accurate. This is always a constant debate in the AT world. The AAC device that he uses is specific to him. As is all aac devices should. Be because every persons voice is unique to them. There are a plethora of devices out there, one size does not fit all.

World Autism Awareness Day 2014

World Autism Awareness Day

World Autism Awareness Day

World Autism Awareness Day takes place on the 2nd of April, a day for raising the awareness of autism as well as celebrating the achievements and strengths of people living with autism.

Celebrating World Autism Awareness Day

World Autism Awareness Day gives everybody involved with someone living with autism, the people themselves and those who care about sharing awareness of the condition the chance to shout about it. World Autism Awareness Day is celebrated across many countries and it’s an opportunity for people to share their stories and come together to celebrate the people who succeed and exceed expectations every single day.

In the UK it’s believed more than 1 in every 100 people has autism and this equates to around 700,000 just in the UK. It is a condition which effects different people in different ways and whilst some people living with Autism can live independently, find employment and enjoy a busy social calendars others are non-verbal and require 24 hour care and support.

At Communication Aids many of our articles and posts support people living with autism or their parents and carers. Many of the verbal communication issues we discuss are highly relevant to people involved in the care of someone with autism and we hope our efforts have been helpful in some way or another.

This video from 2013 shows exactly how much World Autism Awareness Day means to many different people:

Technology, Communication and Autism

World Autism Awareness Day

Proloquo2go AAC App for Speech

All of us use technology on a daily basis: from checking our emails to watching TV, a screen is never far away. We already know that technology can be hugely beneficial and helpful for people living with communication difficulties and this extends to people wit autism.

Many people living with autism have difficulties with communication, both in terms of verbal speech and comprehension of others. Tablets such as ones made by Apple or Android offer a range of AAC apps for speech which we have discussed at length previous and this can ease the anxiety and frustration of many people with an ASD, as communication can finally become a possibility.

With a lack of traditional communication methods can often come difficulties in learning from traditional teaching and classroom methods.  Listening for long periods of time can be difficult due to many people living with autism having difficulty with concentration and organisation. A learning app gives the user the ability to learn at their own pace, with the option of repeating segments they may well have missed if it were the spoken word. Game-based learning is also proven to be extremely valuable.

Trabasack for your Tablet

The Trabasack is a lightweight lap tray and secure travel bag, ideal for carrying a tablet safely and securely. Using the Trabasack Media Mount your tablet can be in the upright position, or simply lay it flat on the large, sturdy tray which attaches comfortably around the waist. The beanbag cushion underneath provides comfort and support when using your Trabasack, while the D-Ring attachments make the bag easy to carry around by shoulder strap or over the handles of a wheelchair. To enhance your tablet experience, buy your Trabasack now.

Proloquo4Text is Here!!

Proloquo4text: is a new text to speech app for people who cannot speak or have difficulties making themselves understood.

Below is a review of the new app from Proloquo – P4T by expert user Kati Lea


I received the first build of P4T in Sept and initially had a few difficulties as the categories that went down the side were too narrow and did not seem to increase with font neither did the prediction on the keyboard. 

First build of P4T

First build of P4T


I gave them feedback over the issues that a person with fine motor difficulties would struggle with particularly and then a few weeks later was sent a second build of the Beta version. 


This was much better and easier for me to use.  I could make the categories bigger and the prediction in the keyboard, although it didn’t leave much space for typing on the iPad mini when the keyboard is up, especially if you are using very large font’s. The space does look bigger in screenshots that it comes across on the iPad mini.

I feel, to make the best of this app, particularly if you have some fine motor issues but want to access directly via touch, then the larger iPad would give you more room to play with on the screen. If you can see a regular sized font easily this issue will probably not affect you.

The app does have some great features for adult communicators and is aimed at Adults with good literacy skills who prefer a prediction based AAC device to one with symbols and having to hunt through ‘pages’ of topics to find the words/sentences you want. 


Each build brought improvements from the last. There is a start up guide to help the total novice set the app to their requirements, though it is easy for the more experienced user to find all settings under the gear icon on the top right of the screen.

page from the start up guide

page from the start up guide


pages and menu's are explained in detail in the user guide

pages and menu’s are explained in detail in the user guide

Here are some examples with larger font’s and coloured menu’s that I created, just to show how it can be personalised.

It was quick & easy to colour code, making longer pre-stored sentences easy to find

It was quick & easy to colour code, making longer pre-stored sentences easy to find


Type statuses for Facebook and Twitter

Type statuses for Facebook and Twitter



If you are reducing the predictions/quick chat to one column, I find sentence prediction and phrases the most helpful if you wish to reduce options. However you can choose for all of them to appear on that side and you just press the small icon on top right of that bar to scroll through between quickchat,  prediction etc. 


You can also make the prediction on the keyboard a larger font and bigger ‘buttons’, or you can remove it entirely and only have predictions on the side bars. 

keyboard with prediction removed

keyboard with prediction removed


 You can even have the keyboard prediction in a different colour if you want!  Another great feature I was keen to see incorporated was abbreviation-expansion or ‘shortcuts’. These are essential to the text based typist to speed up production of long explanations and as an alternative to having to look through categories.

Here are screenshots of me creating the shortcut to explain Typetalk (as in the screenshot further up)


I created a category called Shortcuts in 'Quick Talk' then selected 'add item'

I created a category called Shortcuts in ‘Quick Talk’ then selected ‘add item’


This is page where you create your pre-stored sentence and turn it into an abbreviation

This is page where you create your pre-stored sentence and turn it into an abbreviation


now you an choose to either go into quick talk to find the sentence or just type 'ETT'

now you an choose to either go into quick talk to find the sentence or just type ‘ETT’


 as soon as you type in your abbreviation the text comes up to save you alot of typing!

as soon as you type in your abbreviation the text comes up to save you alot of typing!


 Regarding access methods – the switch access is now built into iOS7 and you can use the app with either external switches or using your iPads camera as the switch with look left to stop scan,  right to continue for example. You can let the OS scan for you or do it manually so it only scans when you activate by turning your head.  You can also scan by touching screen.  You can add this as an extra feature and combine with head movements to create 3 switches.


an example of a switch set up using the inbuilt camera and screen.

an example of a switch set up using the inbuilt camera and screen.


 To reach this page go to .. General Settings > Accessibility > Physical & Motor > Switch Control > Switches and select your preferred input method. 


This is a useful feature with adults with progressive conditions who maybe able to use an iPad with hands to start but maybe wanting to start to teach themselves switch scanning,  so they can be proficient in it by the time it is needed full time.  The iPad mini (wi-fi only version) is £399 as a entry price,  significantly cheaper than many specialist AAC devices for those struggling to afford or get funding for them


I do have mine on an iPad mini (It’s all I could afford this year) and  there is not a lot of spare screen space when you need to make prediction,  fonts and side bars bigger in order to read them properly or just physically hit the right one.  For those with aiming difficulties/intention tremor etc I would suggest using P4T with the larger screened iPad.  It may even make it possible for some people to use in portrait mode.

P4T can be used in Portrait mode too for those that prefer.

P4T can be used in Portrait mode too for those that prefer.

Image of the Proloquo4Text logo, which features two apostrophes - one looks like a face taking, the other is leaving the mouth of the face like a speech bubble.

Click here to purchase the Proloquo4Text AAC app for iPad and iPhone

As a side note – Typetalk/Text Direct are also bringing out an app called ParallelText that allows you to use iDevices as minicoms to make phone calls.  Giving you a fully functional AAC device that can do the same as the more expensive devices regarding having switch access, ability to compose text message (PLUS use as a minicom for hearing impaired AAC users)  and a communication aid PLUS all the other stuff you can do on an iPad too!!

Overall it is an excellent app and released today on the app store at a special introductory price of £44.99 for the first few weeks, after which it will be £89.99.









Talk Shop Conference 2013

An image of two purple speech bubbles, one with "talk" the other with "shop" written in white.

Talk Shop 2013 takes place 21st of June at the Daventry Court Hotel.

Friday 21st of June, 2013, will see Trabasack once again attending the annual Talk Shop – the national Speech & Language and Occupational therapy conference.

trabasack lap tray with microphone

Trabasack can be used to mount a microphone to encourage speech

The Talk Shop fair is a one day conference that brings together Speech and Language and Occupational Therapists from around the country to discuss ideas, ignite creativity in the field and keep up-to-date with available resources.

Talk Shop is the ideal location for therapists to meet up with others in the field, and gives them an opportunity to discuss their teaching and therapy methods, share stories and learn how others help their patients get the most from therapy.

By providing a forum for those in the SLT and OT profession, Talk Shop can help keep the field of communication therapy fresh and creative. As each patient in need of communication therapy will have their strengths and weaknesses, many therapist will have unique stories to tell, and having a chance to chat and share experiences can help provide new approaches for speech and language therapy.

TalkShop Workshops 2013

This year Talk Shop will be providing 4 unique and in-depth workshops for parents, carers, SLTs and OTs to take part in.

Apps for use in Therapy

With the fast changing technology that is now available for use in communication therapy, Talk Shop have chosen to present a workshop dedicated to iPads and apps as communication and sensory aids. This workshop will be hosted by Richard Hirstwood, well known for his passionate and experienced approach to multi sensory therapy. He will be talking about how to use iPads for children and adults with additional needs, to engage, motivate and to help connect with those who have communication issues. He will also share ideas for creating multi-sensory experiences for children using toys and environments, as well as touch-screen technology. For a sneak-peak of Richard’s work, you can visit his website

Auditory Processing – ‘The Importance of a Full Sensory Assessment’

The next workshop on offer is Auditory Processing – The importance of a Full Sensory Assessment. Alan Heath, head of the workshop, has taken part in a number of Talk Shop events over the years, and is back again to discuss how the complex mix of all 5 senses allows a child or adult with additional needs to understand the world around them. He will talk about how issues with processing one of the senses can impact upon the processing of the other four, and in turn general daily functioning. For more information on Alan’s work, visit his website

An Introduction to TalkTools Oral Placement Therapy for Feeding and Speech

Next up is the introduction to TalkTools Oral Placement Therapy workshop. TalkTools products and systems were developed in the USA and are specifically targeted at helping therapist aid patients with speech and feeding issues. The workshop includes information on motor and sensory issues that can affect speech and feeding, and therapy techniques that utilise oralsensory/ motor tools. Helen Woodrow is heading the workshop, and is an accredited level 4 TalkTools Therapist, making her the most experienced TalkTools therapist in Europe. You can find out more about Helen and her TalkTools experience by visiting her website

We have been using TalkTools with our son who has Dravet Syndrome. They have really helped him with his eating and drinking and we shall continue to tell other parents about them.

‘How do you SLOT in? Joint SLT and OT working’

The final workshop available on the day is an in-depth look at what TalkShop is all about. The workshop is headed by Hayley and Jess – Speech and Language Therapist and Occupational Therapists respectively, they are highly experienced in their fields. Hayley and Jess are currently combining their skills and experience to create a new independent therapy practise called “We Do Therapy”. They will provide an interactive presentation covering how they met and came to work together, why setting up “We Do Therapy” was important to them, and plenty of hints and tips on how to work collaboratively on projects to achieve desired goals. For more information follow Hayley and Jess on twitter : @WeDoTherapy

Exhibitors and Learning Zones at TalkShop 2013

As well as a fantastic range of workshops for SLT and OT professionals, the TalkShop conference also includes a large selection of exhibitors each showcasing their products and communication aids. It is here that Trabasack will be demonstrating their multi-use lap tray bag and media mount, providing helpful ideas on how to get the most out of your Trabasack in relation to communication and sensory aids.

Media Mount holding a communication switch and a 'hello' symbol

Trabasack being used for symbols and switches

The Learning Zones offer different environments for experimenting with and seeing various equipment and technology in action. This year sees four zones on offer – Tech Zone, featuring the latest in assistive, speech and interactive technologies. Then the Sensory Zone provides an area dedicated to providing the latest in engaging sensory equipment and experiences. The Classroom Zone is a ‘mock’ classroom which will showcase the most inclusive and innovative furniture and school equipment on the market. Lastly the Design Zone will allow you to see ideas that are still in development, get involved with prototypes and take part in discussion on how to develop innovative therapy tools.

Finally, there will be a “Day in the Life” presentation where companies and experts examine the daily equipment needs of children with additional needs, including everything from waking, hoisting, feeding, travelling and bathing. This presentation will demonstrate some of the products on offer from many of the exhibitors and will help provide you with ideas on new equipment that may help your own child.

Image of someone with a Talk Shop tote bag on their shoulder, browsing items for sale on a table.

Each attendee will receive a Talk Shop bag filled with resources and ideas.

TalkShop Venue and Ticket Bookings

TalkShop 2013 will take place on Friday, 21st of June at the Daventry Court Hotel, Northamptonshire. Doors open at 9:15am and the work shop and exhibits are available throughout the day until closing at 4:45pm. There is a large car park available for attendees and tickets are available for £55 per person. To book a place at TalkShop 2013 simple fill in the online form here or contact Louise Scrivener via phone 07881 523804 or email


The video below is a little taste of the kind of information Alan Heath will provide during his sensory and iPad app workshop:

Communication Aids for Children with Autism

Communication Aids for Children with Autism

Autism is a developmental disability which affects the way an individual is able to communicate with and understand other people and the world around them. There are varying degrees of autism, which is why the condition is considered spectral with individuals diagnosed with the condition to a particular degree. Individuals with an autistic spectrum disorder will all share similar qualities but they may be more or less pronounced depending on the severity of the condition. There are individuals with autism who can communicate verbally with no significant difficulties whilst there are others with no verbal communication whatsoever, as well as many in between.

There are over half a million people in the UK who have autism and many of these are children. Developing communication methods with children with autism is key to ensuring they enter adulthood with the tools required to head towards independence. Below are some key communication aids you can use with children with autism, but first this video gives some tips and ideas with regard to choosing communication devices:

Low-Tech Communication Devices

Makaton Communication

Some Children with Autism can communicate using Makaton

Makaton is a simple form of sign language which combines signs, images and speech. My First Makaton Symbols and Signs Book is the ideal place to start when introducing Makaton to your child. It includes all essential symbols and helps with the initial process of expressing basic needs, wants and feelings, as well as encouraging interaction.

We’ve looked at these before on this blog but Picture Exchange Communication Keyrings are a great portable method of communication for children with autism who can become non-verbal in situations where they become anxious and find verbalising their feelings difficult. They’re also useful for those who are permanently non-verbal. They come in a wide range covering food and drink, instructions and behaviour and much more, allowing for all needs to be quickly put across and met, as with standard speech.

High-Tech Communication Devices

handheld communication device for children

Communciation Devices for Children with Autism, cover a wide range of technologies, from specifically designed devices to apps for tablets and ipads

Tobii produce a range of high-tech communication devices which are tailored to support the needs of children with autism and also adults who have the condition. The Tobii S32 for example plays back pre-recorded messages or sounds which can be activated by simply touching a printed sheet including symbols relating to the devices’ sounds. It’s a technological step up from picture cards and signs and gives users a voice when they are unable to find their own.

The Toby Lightwriter Range

Communication aid in use

Lightwriter Communication Aid atop a Trabasack Mini Lap Tray & Bag

Similarly, the Lightwriter range of products is a great option for those with high-functioning Autism who sometimes require assistance with their speech. Lightwriters allows for keyboard based text-to-speech ideal for when an older child with autism loses their ability to communicate verbally but wants to put across their needs through text.

Accessories for Communication

All of these communication devices require a flat surface to be used, to ensure they are easy to access and communication doesn’t get confused. A Trabasack lap tray is ideal for providing a sturdy and secure surface for all communication devices in use by children with autism. Keyrings can be clipped to the side of the Trabasack when it’s used as a bag and other devices can be safely stored in the bag compartment when not in use on the tray surface.

The tray is lightweight and can be rested upon any lap without causing any discomfort and the communication device, whether it’s a simple book being read with a parent or a high-tech Tobii AAC device, can be put on top of the tray and easily accessed.

For more information about using trabasack for communication please click here

Children using Tablets for Education

Kids using Tablets for Educational Purposes

American Advertising Group Produces New Infographic

The popularity of the iPad is nothing new, we all know it’s a huge hit but did we know how much kids loved it? New statistics have been  put together by Florida agency MDG Advertising in this new infographic. It shows exactly how into tablet technology our children are. More than just fun and games, there is evidence of more kids using tablets for educational purposes rather than anything else.

Kid Tech, According To Apple [Infographic]

infographic about tablets being used for educational purposes

Infographicby MDG Advertising

What does it all mean?

SEN Kids using Tablets for Education

SEN kids Using Tablets for Education

We’ve talked before about how positive iPads can be for children’s education. The modern world is digital. Children born today are already prepped for using new technologies just by seeing their parents doing so. What’s more, Apple haven’t missed a trick. They target every market group, even those under one, with apps and products to suit their ‘needs’. The pre-teen market is completely packed out with kids wanting to use tablets and kids using tablets for education is becoming the norm.

We were particularly interested in the section of the infographic which deals with special educational needs technology. The section is entitled Making Special Education Needs Easier and looks at the statistics relating to autism and AAC technology in particular. It highlights there are currently 900 autism-specific apps available for the iPad. It also points out the shocking fact that specific devices for communication, before the iPad, could cost as much as $15,000. Another great figure from the graphic is that 90% of AAC users have turned to using iPads for communication. This shows how beneficial these products are for education and communication more clearly than anything else.

The final statement “Although iPads aren’t the most integral tool for a child’s education quite yet, Americans can expect that to change in the next decade’ is extremely exciting and we can believe it. The iPad has revolutionised education for many and kids using tablets for education report better results than those without access and there is hope in the future, as prices decrease that even more pupils may have access to these devices.

Communication Aids for Deaf People

Communication Aids for Deaf People

Living with a hearing impairment can make communication difficult. In most instances those living with a severe degree of deafness learn some form of sign language which makes communicating with their family, friends and other deaf people much easier. Unfortunately the rest of the population are less likely to use any form of signing. However, there are a range of devices developed for deaf people, allowing them to communicate more easily when signing isn’t possible.

Below are some communication devices which could be useful to those living with hearing impairment or even profound deafness. Please note, the development of modern technologies, especially in telecommunication means many of these devices may seem defunct but this isn’t necessarily so as every individual is different.


The VV-Talker is a wonderful gadget that could enhance the interaction abilities of deaf children as they learn to talk. Deaf youngsters hold the device against their throats and it provides feedback vibrations, helping them to ‘hear’ their attempts at speech. It also has a visual display so they can see the sounds they are making as a sound graph on a screen. This helps them to improve their speech by producing vocal vibrations that are comparable to those shown on the display.

A child using a device that helps deaf children learn to talk

More infomation about the VV talker can be found by clicking the image. Photo credit: Yanko Design

Induction loop systems

Hearing loops are now common in public buildings. They produce amplified sound using an electric field, that can then be picked up by a device used by a deaf person. Often it is by changing a setting on a hearing aid to ‘T’.

Hearing Loop Systems in the Home

In the, you might install a loop system so that the sound from your tv, hi-fi or radio could be amplified. A loop could also be used with a microphone so that you could be able to pick up a conversation with someone close by in an otherwise noisy place. Induction Loop Systems can now be bought online for the home and need no specialist knowledge to set up or install.


Amplified Phones

An Amplified Telephone is a fantastic option for those living with a degree of hearing impairment. They’re designed to ensure that you can hear more clearly as the volume can be increased much higher than that on a regular telephone. What’s more, many also feature additional features including one-touch dialling and spaces for photographs of individuals so numbers don’t need to be remembered and you can simply press the corresponding button.

ClearText Textphone

Textphones are available to those who are unable to used amplified telephones and the Cleartext model featured in the video below is one of the simplest on the market, making communication simple and fast. Featuring a large screen and buttons, communication via text can be quick and efficient. It also automatically inserts the prefix number for TypeTalk which allows for text communication with many companies making it easy to use for professional purposes as well as personal.

The below video explains more about this item:

Communication Uses for Mainstream Technologies

Communication device web cam

Skype Compatible WebCam

Of course plenty of technologies developed for regular usage can be adapted and used easily for communication for deaf people.

You may not need a textphone if you have a mobile phone for example, as you can send messages without difficulty. Similarly, the Skype free internet calls service is ideal if used in conjunction with  Skype compatible webcams. This video capacity removes the need for text as deaf people can communicate as if face to face using their sign language although there is still the option to include text messages.

These types of communication are best accessed using a laptop or tablet, allowing for easy communication wherever you may be. Additionally, to provide a sturdy surface so the user doesn’t need to keep hold of their laptop or feel it wobble on their laps, we’d suggest using a Trabasack lap tray. The Trabasack provides the sturdy, level surface you need, allowing conversation to flow via your computer screen and cam without fail. What’s more if you opt to use a Trabasack Media Mount you can also position your devices exactly where you need them. As Mark Mayer who describes himself as  “Hard of Hearing with cerebral palsy” and who is chairman of a children’s charity, Worster-Drought Syndrome Support Group, says


Single Earphones

For people who have deafness in that is worse on one side, there a also a range of Stereo to Mono earphones that can help amplify sound to one ear or convert talking books or podcasts so that they can be heard in one ear only. As this person on Amazon

This product is primarily designed for runners and cyclists to let them listen to music while having an ear on traffic and surrounding noise, but it’s also brilliant for people with hearing loss – I’m deaf in one ear and can finally listen to “stereo” music through a mono earphone after years of only hearing half the track I’m listening to. The quality of the sound is great – I must be honest and say that my hearing means that I didn’t use earphones a lot, so I don’t really have much else to compare it to, but it sounds fab to me – and the noise isolation means that I can listen to loud music at work without anybody hearing a single annoying tinny beat of what I’m listening to. Overall a really great product.


Communication aids and gadgets for Deafness

So there are a range of useful communication aids for helping deaf people, some very specialist but many being widely available and needing no technical knowledge to buy or install. To browse a wide range of products click here

iPad helps American Boy find his Voice

iPad helps American Boy find his Voice

The benefits of iPad apps and technology for those living with disabilities proven again

Hunter benefits for iPad AAC support

Hunter in a speech therapy session

Despite the iPad being popular with absolutely everybody, we are convinced they help and support learning and communication for people with disabilities. Hunter Harrison is a five year old boy uses his iPad to communicate. Hunter lives with a neuromuscular disability which effects his motor abilities including those needed for verbal communication. Despite this, Hunter is learning to read, knows his numbers, letters, colours and shapes and will be attending mainstream school in September.

Hunter needs a communication system that works. It’s clear he has the facilities to flourish in a mainstream classroom environment. This view is shared by Jane Kleinert from the University of Kentucky who has been working with Hunter. She highlights how popular the iPad has been for use in classrooms, particularly with pupils with autism. The adaptability of the device is one of its most popular features.

Access to AAC Devices Limited, despite iPad affordability

iPad and Proloquo2go

iPad featuring Proloquo2go AAC app

Research in the US has shown that less than 50% of children who require AAC support have access to it. We don’t have statistics for the UK but we’re sure they won’t be significantly different. Access to AAC devices is essential for supporting communication development in children with disabilities. Professor Kleinert and a UK colleague are working together to develop an initiative to build communication systems for children with disabilities. The scheme has allowed Hunter his own iPad loaded up with the popular Proloquo2Go App. The app allowed Hunter to find ways to communicate  but over time it has also led to improvement in his oral speech.

Unfortunately in America, the leading funding options won’t supply iPads as they restrict their funds to dedicated instruments designed for communication. The iPad doesn’t fit this category. However, dedicated AAC devices are often heavy and extremely expensive. The iPad of course has many portability and cost advantages and the success Hunter has achieved is something that every child should have access to. This video shows Hunter in action:

Trabasack can be used successfully as a low cost iPad or communication aid mount for more info click here

Using Switches for Communication

Using Switches for Communication

Access our new Guide to Switch Technology

Using Switches Guide for communication

Our new Guide to Assistive Switch Technology for communication, gaming and play

We have published a new guide on using switches for communication and a range of other purposes, with the aim to introduce assistive switch technology to those who know very little about it. Our guide is an introduction to a world of knowledge regarding switches and their uses and we believe readers of this blog could really enjoy and benefit from the information we’ve put together. The guide is available via PDF and is split into several categories:

Introduction – What is Switch Technology

Advantages of Switch Technology

Types of Switches

Determining Correct Switch Positioning

Simple Switch Activities

Switch Mounting

More Useful Information and Links

Each category takes a quick, introductory look at its topic and allows the reader to begin to understand the basics of switch technology and how it can be used by a range of individuals with different needs. The guide focuses on providing information for parents, carers and perhaps educators who want to understand more about switches and how they can be used positively for users with a range of disabilities.

Switches for Communication

Communication Switch

A Communication Switch

There are a number of switches on the market that are specifically designed to aid communication and even the development of speech. Switches can be preprogrammed with specific phrases and answers that are commonly used by the individual in question or they can be more free reign like many AAC devices, requiring the touch of a button or the blink of an eye to cause the correct utterance to be heard.

Switches can be programmed with a single response or a range of message choices to suit the user and the extent to which you can customise a switch to the individual should not be underestimated. Another important factor to consider in the use of switches for communication is the positioning of the switch and our guide covers positioning and mounting in depth to ensure all readers are aware of the necessary questions to ask themselves before positioning their chosen switch.

To get your own copy of the guide, click here.  


Trabasack is available from these Communication Aid companies (to add your company to the list, please email duncan{at}