Sunday, March 30, 2014

ChatAble - AAC app by Therapy Box

ChatAble by Therapy Box Limited ($159.99, iOS 6.0 or higher, iPad)

Therapy Box launched in 2010 and have quickly become the go-to development house for the speech and language therapy industry. With a slew of awards for their apps and services, Therapy Box keep their core goals in focus – creating cutting edge and affordable apps for people with disabilities. Headed by speech and language therapist/pathologist Rebecca Bright and tech industry professional Swapnil Gadgil, the young team is driven to assure their apps reach as many as possible. Predictable is currently available in 6 languages and in 2013 was awarded the grand prize at the Ericsson App Awards in Stockholm. 2013 also saw co-founder Rebecca Bright take home the prestigious NatWest everywoman Iris Award for tech entrepreneurs.
ChatAble offers a fully functional AAC system with social media integration, accessibility options and handwriting recognition as an input choice (ChatAble's sister app, Predictable, also has this function).  ChatAble also has a very easy to use visual scene feature with a really exceptional option- an alarm function! Choose an image from your camera roll, from one of the 12,000 widget symbols, or take a photo on the spot.  Then program hot spots where you can embed your voice, a video, or even a song from iTunes and to top it off program the visual scene to signal an alarm at a certain time of the day.

 What I Love

Accessibility Features.
ChatAble has a number of special features for accessibility, including its own switch access system you can turn on from the settings in the app- see Wish List.  It also has a force Delay option in settings to minimize mishits and limit impact of tremors.  A variety of features make ChatAble accessible to low vision and blind users also-  ChatAble gives the user auditory feedback- it will name each button out loud as it is touched or selected via scanning.  Aside from auditory feedback and scanning, large 1x1 cells that take up a good part of the screen can be made; editng/customization options allow for a variety of colors, fonts, and font sizes.

Adjustable Grid Sizes.
A grid can made as large as a 1 x1 button, to fill up the entire screen, or as small as 8 x 8 (8 rows, 8 columns of buttons). 

Handwriting input.
A unique option that offers those with stronger handwriting skills a fast way to communicate- the app will convert handwriting into words that the user can send to the sentence bar to speak/share. This feature is found by tapping the tab in the bottom right hand corner of the screen, then selecting the yellow "change" symbol.

Social Media integration.
ChatAble allows you to share content formulated in the sentence strip via AirDrop, Messaging, Mail or Twitter or Facebook.  (FYI , if  one or all of the Social Media sharing options are not displayed as a choice when you select the share button, you probably haven't fully set up that function in the main settings of the iPad- you need to enter your passwords there so ChatAble can access them). 

Easy to Use and Customize.
I initially tried to over complicate the process by using a press and hold to edit a button.  It actually requires a quick tap- at which point the button will enlarge itself to take up the entire screen. The full screen with large buttons for each step of the editing process make it really easy. Some of the words the app comes installed with are Australian vocabulary, so I quickly "relabeled the icon "Verbana" with "grape soda" , for example.

There are many options for customization too- you can set the color of the button's border and set the background color of that button as well. You can choose from one of 12,000 widgets, or add your own picture to a button, along with text if you choose- there are about 70 fonts to choose from;  both font size and font color are adjustable.

You can also reorder cells of a grid in edit mode- simply touch and pull it to the new location you would like.

Editing can easily be switched off through the main settings in the iPad.

Your work can be exported via email, iTunes or Dropbox. There is a search feature to pull up grid pages under the tab in the right hand corner of the screen

Visual Scenes with Alarm Function.
To create visual scenes, ChatAble has the same step by step process with the four easy to understand icons at the top of the screen to guide you through each of the steps.  You can even embed media like songs from iTunes or a video from your camera/camera roll into a hot spot.  You can record your own voice or choose to use text to speech.

Hot spots can even be made invisible, which is perfect when we want a person to focus on all elements of an image, not just the ones singled out with hot spot boxes.    For example if we were checking for understanding by asking a student to "show me the apple" or "touch the star under the astronaut" in a visual scene, I would like him/her  to visually scan the picture and be able to locate the item(s) without the extra visual cue the colored hot spot boxes provide. To access this feature, go in to Settings (Gear Symbol), scroll down to Scene Settings, and select "None".

You can choose to add an alarm to a scene- it will alert you at the time you have indicated each day- this is excellent for reminding someone of the steps taken during a daily routine, such as washing his/her face, making coffee etc.  An audible tone sounds and a message pops up- click on it and it will take you to the scene you have set the reminder for.

Wish List

Occasionally the accessibility feature stops, requiring the user to tap it to restart.  Currently the user can not access the share button when in this mode.  Note from Developer:
The reason that social share doesn’t appear is due to limitation with the iOS operating system rather than the app. However, you are able to utilise iOS 7 scanning to access these options.

I would also love the invisible hot spots feature to be right where the color selections are for the hot spots- perhaps it could be shown with broken lines to symbolize it will show up invisible.

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