Wednesday, March 31, 2021

Let your voice be heard, so that other's might have a voice!

Hey Tek-ninjas! I've heard from many of you about how much you appreciate the free, quality webinars that Tobii Dynavox offers at their Learning Hub. I've most recently blogged about those here. A number of folks report using the webinars to fulfill most of their continuing education, from home, on their own computer, learning about AAC! Well, it looks like the company's Learning Team is about to take their efforts to a whole new level!

Tobii Dynavox has announced that they are working on the creation of a Certification Program. Completing a specific course of study would provide participants with Tobii Dynavox Certification. They indicate that their intention is to create a program that best serves "your" interests and needs, and in order to do so, they are hoping to get your input on this survey

This is your opportunity to tell Tobii Dynavox what you want to learn, and what you think other AAC focused SLPs and other professionals "should" know! You can have a hand in determining what a Tobii Dynavox Certificate Program might look like.

So, who are they looking for feedback from? Well, SLPs, educators, and any other AAC/assistive tech friends (hey fellow OTs...)! By the way, AAC/assistive tech friends definitely 
includes parents, caregivers, and even end users!

Please consider sharing your opinion, and inviting invested AAC friends to do so as well!

Friday, March 26, 2021

ALS Social Security Disability Insurance Access Act signed into law

Hey Tek-ninjas! Today I read some terrific news, and wanted to share with you all!

On March 23rd, President Biden signed into law allowing Medicare benefits to start "day of diagnosis of ALS" verse having to wait 5 months for the kick in. This bill, is a true bi-partisan effort from our U.S. Senators. The bill effectively allows patients the opportunity to start their future communication needs much sooner than before. I believe accessing such benefits earlier can not only prolong their life but quality of that life.

Senator Coons stated that “With this technical fix to the law, we’ll finally ensure that ALS patients get the timely financial support they need,” adding that “speedy access to support programs like SSDI after a diagnosis is essential for patients and their families – and one of the priorities we set when we first launched the bipartisan ALS Caucus last year. We must continue to improve the law to make life easier for ALS patients and their loved ones.” 

You can get more information here.

This makes me happy. 

Thursday, March 25, 2021

Free Symbol-Based Supports

Hey Tek-ninjas! I'm going to state the obvious, and say that the last 14 months have presented some new challenges across the country. Many of our AAC users, and other folks benefit from a variety of supports including Social Stories, Picture Schedules, and other symbol supports. 

Did you know that Tobii Dynavox offers Symbol-Based Supports for free? 

All you need is a free account - and it's possible you already have one! If you have login credentials for mytobiidynavox, the eFunding Portal, or Boardmaker Online, you can use those same credentials to log into the Learning Hub, which I've blogged about before. Within the Learning Hub, you can access these free Symbol-Based Supports

For example, there is a whole series of "Back to School" books, stories, and sequences to support students learning through COVID-19 at home and at school. The supports include an entrance routine, books about germs, stories about wearing masks, learning at home, and more.

The 3 pages displayed here are specifically from the Social Story: "Wear A Mask". This book does a terrific job of explaining to a young person why they need to wear a mask, while also recognizing the ways in which it's uncomfortable to do, yet necessary. 

Additionally, if you have ideas of emergency type content that you think might be helpful - please reach out to your Tobii Dynavox Solutions Consultant - you can find that individual here! They can relay the idea to the team making such content, and it's likely that content will manifest!

Happy therapy!

Wednesday, March 24, 2021

Casting for the male voice

Hey Tek-ninjas! This is a follow up from yesterday's post. I just received a message that the folks working on the AA digital voice are seeking members of the African American community to participate in that creation.

Evidently, "the casting for the male voice is now open. Please click the link to complete the survey. It should take about 20 minutes, but there is a short version where you can opt out after answering only 8 questions (approx. 10 min). Please forward to any AAC users, families, and other professionals who might be interested in participating. The survey will close on Friday, April 26.

Please share with folks as you see fit.

Tuesday, March 23, 2021

This is significant: Meet the 1st African American English digital voice!

 Hey Tek-ninjas! I cannot tell you how many times I've had a family member, care-giver, or device user ask me for a voice that better represents them.... I've had a wife ask me "do you have anything that's... sounds.... less vanilla"? If you've heard the various digital voices they do have a certain "homogenous sound". Until now, I've never been able to offer a solution, as the voices are made by a number of different companies which I don't work for and consequently have no agency over.

Last summer the Acapela Group, who makes a lot of the voices used across multiple AAC software manufactures announced that they would provide more diversity options within their voices. Well, recently Nicolas Mazars, Inclusive Product owner at Acapela Group announced "our mission is to provide a voice for all and we are proud to unveil a voice sample of the first African American English digital voice ever". 

The folks at Acapela note that they called upon African American AAC users, SLPs, and the parents of young AAC users to help create the voice profile using their personal knowledge and feedback. This sounds to have been a truly collaborative approach with Acapela "asking, listening, sharing, discussing, and learning what could possibly be the right choice for a 'AAE' voice".

The new voice is named Tamira, and you can hear her here. Acapela reports that while Tamira is the first member of their family of voices, they expect to introduce a male, and 2 children's voices in a few weeks.

My understanding is that these voices are not ready yet to deploy on devices, but hopefully you will be hearing them soon!

I look forward to hearing the other voices, and hope that this push for increased diversity continues.

Happy therapy! 

Thursday, March 4, 2021

Wanna deliver voices?!

 Hey Tek-ninjas! I know if you've been reading my blog for any amount of time, you know I'm:

1. An employee of Tobii Dynavox. 

2. You also know that I'm an unabashed fan-boy of Tobii Dynavox. 

Tobii Dynavox Stars
I know it may seem that I wear Polly-Anna glasses given how much I gush about Tobii Dynavox, but I don't think that is the case. I recognize that no company is perfect, including ours, but from the top down, I have never been happier in a job, and I am always so pleased by my colleagues who constantly impress me with their intelligence, dedication, integrity, energy, and desire to "beat yesterday". We deliver voices!

I have been a Solutions Consultant for Tobii Dynavox for over 3 years now. This role has been very rewarding, and I've made some remarkable connections with folks who use our products and folks who directly help those folks using our products. 

Currently we have a hand full of Solutions Consultant positions available in various parts of the country. These turn-overs don't happen that often, and this could be a great opportunity. If you are reading my blog with any regularity, I assume you have an interest in AAC, and helping someone, I thought I would share some of those jobs. Who knows... maybe one of you could be the next Tobii Dynavox employee?

Here are current locations:

Eastern NC

Nashville, TN

Spokane, WA

South Carolina


Southern, IL

If this seems of interest to you, take a look at the position. If you have questions, reach out to Ashley Weiss, she is super knowledgeable and super friendly.