The goal of the study is to reach students and researchers, as well as, companies and organisations to stimulate further research. The purpose of this is to encourage the development of effective software for children with communication disabilities. This report is relevant to students, researchers, companies and organisations working within the areas of: Human Computer Interaction (HCI), Information Communication Technology (ICT), Assistive technology (AT) and AAC.
This report discusses the need for cross platform AAC(Augmentative and Alternative Communication) software aimed at children with mild to moderate communication disabilities. It is crucial to find out how diseases and treatments affect a child's quality of life (QoL), especially for chronic diseases.
The result shows that there are key findings in the following categories: QoL, Communication, Technology, and Finance. A conclusion is that cross-platform software would improve the QoL of families by including the child at home and in other environments, such as, in school. A critical factor is the lack of standardised lexical resources. Proper classification systems for lexical and ontology resources should be openly available. The popularisation of apps, portable touchscreen devices, social media are not easily incorporated into current business or prescription models. Companies need to look for a new business model to adapt. The prescription system needs to become less rigid in order to account for the rapidly changing times.
Quality of Life, or QoL, is central concept in pediatric practice. It is crucial to find out how the treatment and disease affects the child's QoL, especially for diseases that are not curable. By identifying this we can make informed decisions about the treatment and select the best treatment method for the child We want to discover what barriers (if there are any) prevent users from having full access to AAC systems. Thus, we will be able to know how the full range of AAC systems can be used to their full potential Although the technology has been around for a long time little is known about how they are used in certain settings. Therefore is it difficult to draw conclusions about the need for Cross-Platform software.
If AAC software is constrained to one platform, it can create problems. Parents and other caregivers cannot effectively communicate with the same child through different devices. The constraint could be problematic for customisable products because each device must be customised separately. The child and users must re-learn each different interface separately.
The goal is to reach these two groups: 1. Students and researchers - purpose: to stimulate further research in the fields mentioned below. 2. Companies and organisations - purpose: to encourage the development of effective software for children with communication disabilities
In particular this research aims to reach students, researchers, companies and organisations working within the areas of(explanations of terms found in Appendix B): Human Computer Interaction (HCI), Information Communication Technology (ICT), AT and AAC.
This research follows the interpretivist view point . As highlighted by Denzin , interpretivism disputes that differentiation between truth and fiction is faulty, as such, it rejects the concept of an objective reality. This sits at the other end of the spectrum to positivism . Interpretivist  approaches look at the ways in which people shape society.
In this study inductive reasoning  is employed to complement the open-ended and exploratory ethos of the project. Inductive research is is a "bottom up" approach where data is collected and then conclusions are drawn from that material .
The project uses a qualitative research method . A qualitative approach  is used for the data collection in the form of semi-structured expert interviews . This is a cross-sectional study as participants were only interviewed once. Coding and categorisation was used in accordance with methods used by Gillham , is used to analyse data and from these results are determined.
Questions must be cohesive and have a logical order . To achieve this, questions were developed in iterations. A number of questions were created that were deemed relevant to the study. Questions were rewritten and reorganised for better interview flow. Questions were kept open, unbiased and as clear as possible.
An unstructured face-to-face interview  with a developer of accessibility software was conducted for exploratory purposes. This gave the research a more focused direction, and aided the second revision and restructuring of questions. Each word was weighed for its need within the question; extra words were deleted.
Snowball sampling  is the method used to gain participants. This is where the interviewees themselves provide recommendations for the next interviewee. Through gaining rapport with interviewees, other experts were more likely to be willing to participate. Although snowball sampling was used, selected participants had a different role within the field of study. This provided a wider understanding about the nature of the different stakeholder opinions.
The study is based on a sample size of three participants. The main interviews are semi-structured in order to permit for equilibrium between structure and openness. This allows for a wide scope of questioning whilst remaining on topic . The form of data collection is a series of semi-structured elite interviews  within the fields of AAC, AT, and paediatrics. Elite interviews provide much more insight than could be expected from a non-expert . Since these are the most knowledgeable people within their respective fields, the results produced should resemble a reflection of their cumulative knowledge.
Face-to-face interviewing was used when possible, but video calls were used when face-to-face was not possible.
The VoIP software ‘Skype’ was used during video call interviews. The screen capture software ‘Screenflow’ was used in order to record video call interviews.
To analyse the data collected, categories were derived from interviews using a variation of the technique described by Bill Gillham . The method used consists of three steps:
Step 1 - Create Transcripts - audio to text Transcribe the interviews from audio to text. Name interviews with letters e.g. Interview A, Interview B etc. The speech to text software ‘Dragon Dictation’ and manual editing was used to transcribe interviews.
Step 2 - Highlighting substantive statements Start highlighting substantive statements that hold relevant information
Step 3 - Coding - generating categories Label passages with substantive statements with categories. Look at the categories that recur throughout interviews. Analyse these categories to interpret findings.
The result shows that there are key findings in the following categories: QoL, Communication, Technology and Finance.
A conclusion is that cross-platform software would improve the QoL of families by including the child at home and in other environments such as in school. A critical factor is the lack of standardised lexical resources. Proper classification systems for lexical and ontology resources should be openly available. The popularisation of apps, portable touchscreen devices, social media are not easily incorporated into current business or prescription models. Companies need to seek out a new business model to adapt. The prescription system needs to become less rigid in order to account for the rapidly changing times.
Relevance The timeliness of this research is current, as the spread high-tech devices are starting to help communication impaired children become more functional . Resources Some of the experts were impractical to reach due to zero funding; therefore half of the data collection was conducted via video calling, rather than face-to-face. Originality There is a wealth of research in AAC; however research into its relationship with cross-platform software had not been covered. Accuracy & Accountability The number of participants lends itself to deep but narrow results. However, as a strict methodology was followed the results should be valid and replicable with the same sample of participants. Generalizations This research was based on people chosen for their expertise; this may help to identify significant factors within more general situations. However, this research does not claim to provide a universal theory. Instead it presents the views of a small, but expert, community. Objectivity Efforts to remain objective were maintained through appropriate question design and avoiding a biased analysis. However, it should be noted that, due to the semi-structured nature of interviews, some prompting questions were not prepared in advance and may be subject to researcher bias. Ethics Participants were provided with information sheets and consent forms in order to opt in or out of the study. Pseudonyms for people and institutions are used where appropriate in order to preserve anonymity where requested by participants.
There are ethical considerations as the research concerns a vulnerable and/or dependent group within society, as such, the research focused on elite interviews instead of involving the children directly. This may have excluded some interesting data that can only be gained from studying the group of people who actually use AAC technologies.
Suggestions for further work should include research on possible new business models to support AAC software development, investigating the prescription system, and looking at how physicians prescribe AAC software. Classification and standardisation initiatives best suited for cross-platform AAC software development should also be investigated further.
If prepared and implemented in an ethically correct manner, observations or user-testing with end-users should be conducted. Families and children could be studied at home, in learning environments, or other situations where communication is needed to investigate the effectiveness of cross-platform AAC software.
Cross Platform Software for Children with Mild to Moderate Communication Disabilities
Tenhue and Micaux
Investigating the Need for
Cross Platform Software for
Children with Mild to
• Assistive technology (AT), augmentative and
alternative communication (AAC)
• Quality of life (QoL)
• Financial & social barriers prevent equal spread
• Little known about use in certain settings
Problem, Goal & Purpose
Is there a need for cross platform AAC software aimed at
children with mild to moderate communication disabilities?
Goal & Purpose
•To reach 1. Students and researchers 2. Companies
•We want to reach people in these areas: Human
Computer Interaction (HCI), Information Communication
Technology (ICT), AT and AAC.
• Multi-stage question design
• Results from experts in the field
• Participant sample of three used in final analysis
Participant Type of interview
DEVELOPER (Probing) Face-to-face unstructured
RESEARCHER Video call semi-structured
COMPUTER PEDAGOGUE Video call semi-structured
DOCTOR Face-to-face semi-structured
• Information & consent forms for each
• Face-to-face when possible
• Skype video calls when face-to-face was not
• Screenflow video and audio recording
• iPhone audio recording
• 30 minute interviews
Result and Conclusion
o Categories: Quality of Life, Communication,
Technology and Finance
Cross-platform software: would improve QoL of
families by inclusion @home @school etc.
Open Classification systems: for lexical (words,
vocabulary) and ontology (what exists) resources
should be openly available as an incentive to:
Adapt to mainstream tech: Apps, portable
devices, social media etc. – these need to be
incorporated in current business and prescription
• Timely research
• Vulnerable or dependent groups
• Missing out on data from excluding groups from
• Expert anonymization at request
• Snowball sampling leads to same opinions
• Researcher bias from prompting questions
• Deep but narrow data from interview
• Influence from recording devices
• New models to support AAC
• Prescription systems
• Classification & standardization
• Observation of end-users using
• Observation of use in natural