Sennott Co-Develops iPhone Application That Allows Communicatively Disabled People to “Speak”
by Joe Savrock (April 2010)
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - People with communication disabilities now have the power to “speak” clearly, thanks to a new iPhone application created by College of Education doctoral candidate Samuel Sennott and David Niemeijer, a software expert in the Netherlands.
Sennott, who is pursuing a Ph.D. in Penn State’s Special Education program, worked with Niemeijer to develop Proloquo2Go, a hip new application that runs on iPhone, iPod Touch, and other portable hand-held devices. Proloquo2Go opens new doors of communication for children and adults who have autism, cerebral palsy, and other developmental disabilities, as well as stroke and accident victims who have lost the ability to speak.
A user communicates simply by pressing buttons containing illustrated symbols and activating a natural-sounding text-to-speech voice output. Proloquo2Go features a default vocabulary of more than 7,000 items.
The application is readily available at retail stores and, at less than $200, is much more affordable than traditional augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) devices, such as computer-based voice output aids and word boards.
Proloquo2Go has been gaining national exposure. It most recently was featured by ABC News in its online video series The Conversation. It also has been featured in USA Today, by Fox News, on the popular syndicated talk show The Doctors, and in other media outlets.
Sennott conceptualized the Proloquo2Go idea several years ago while leading an inclusion program on the north shore of Massachusetts. “I saw how my students with disabilities needed powerful, yet affordable and cool technology to help them communicate,” he says.
What’s more, using a hand-held device helps the user blend into the mainstream of an increasingly wired-in society. “The hard-to-quantify coolness factor of using an iPad, iPhone, and iPod touch to communicate is truly awesome,” says Sennott. “As we hear about young adults walking or wheeling into high school with Proloquo2Go on a new iPad, it makes me smile to think about the inclusive power of this tool set.”