From user interface to features, ChatAble, will give you what you’d expect in a basic augmentative communication app and surprise you with what you didn’t even know you wanted.  At first glance, this app looks like many augmentative communication apps with a nice grid layout, clear speech, and understandable pictures.  With further investigation, one will find the following cool and useful features:

 

Communication Picture Scenes with User Programmable Hotspots

Take a pic of any scene in the user’s environment.  Make any part of the picture a message button for communication.

Communication Scene

 

Hybrid pages with Scenes and Grids

Create a communication page that combines a picture scene with a standard communication grid layout.

Hybrid Webpage-ChatAble

 

Easy Access Navigation/Settings Menu

Tap the arrow in the lower right corner of the screen and a menu wheel comes up that grants you access to all of the controls. This made programming and changing settings very fast.

Chatable Navigation Menu

 

Timer pages

Set a page to come up on the screen at a certain time during the user’s day to help communicate within a certain environment.  For example, have the “gym” communication board come up on the screen at the exact time the student is scheduled for gym.

 

GPS Tagging

Set a page to come up on the screen when the user enters a certain location within the built-in GPS of the iOS device. For example, I went to the grocery store and set the location for the grocery store board.  The next time I arrived at that same store, the grocery communication board came up automatically.

 

Message Linking-Video, iTunes, Audio, Website

Link  your message button to a video you just captured on your iPad or directly to a video on YouTube. Play an audio clip, link it to a website or have it play a song directly from your iTunes library.  You can even do multiple links for one message.

 

Writing Pad

ChatAble comes with a Write Pad that allows one to use a stylus or finger to hand write (cursive and print) words and have them turn into text that can be spoken in the Message Window.  This worked fairly well; however, one does need to have legible hand writing in order for this to work.

ChatAble Write pad

 

On-Board Switch Scanning

For people who have difficulty accessing the touch screen with their hands, ChatAble has on-board switch scanning.   Features include auditory cueing, 1 & 2 switch scanning modes, flexible scan rate and changeable highlight colors.  I especially like the “Quick Exit Gesture”, which when activated allows a caregiver or teacher to turn scanning off with a quick gesture on the touch screen.

 

Direct Touch Settings

ChatAble allows one to change the “sensitivity” of the touch screen, which can reduce or eliminate accidental message entries.  For example, when I set “Key Hold Time Delay” to 1 second, I have to hold on all message buttons for one second and lift before the message will play.

 

What I wish for future upgrades:

  • Pre-made page sets for various users
  • Faster transitions between pages.  For example it takes up to 12 seconds to go back to the home page when using the Navigation Menu, but only 1-2 seconds when using the back button.  I found this to be the case on two different iPads.
  • Bigger, more obvious back button or a way to enhance it if needed
  • Ability to add the keyboard or writing pad to a page without having to go through the Navigation Menu and Toggle Menu first.
  • Ability to take a current communication scene or grid and convert it to a hybrid
  • Word Prediction
In summary, this app, currently at $50, gives you a lot of bang for your buck.  My two favorite features, GPS tagging and Timed pages, may just be the features that can help someone have immediate access to the communication board they need when they need it, even if they have not yet acquired the skills to navigate their communication system. Check out the videos at this link for more information on all the features.  If you would like to rent an iPad with the ChatAble app, contact IPAT at 1-800-895-4728.

About Author

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Jeannie Krull is the Program Manager for ND Assistive (formerly IPAT). She is an ASHA certified speech/language pathologist and a RESNA certified Assistive Technology Professional, who has worked with people with disabilities of all ages since 1991.