Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) is the term used to describe the methods of communication available to those who are impaired from normal speech. These methods include tools that help people with speech impairments form words and sentences.
One low tech tool I decided to research for communication is called the GoTalk 9+ and is available from this link. This message-type board is considered to be low tech and allows the recording of up to 9 messages with a total maximum recording time of 45 minutes. You can put custom pictures of the actions/word buttons that are located on the device. This allows people with speech impairments to quickly communicate with others in a clear way. The buttons can be set for very common words such as "hello" or "all done" and can therefore allow communication to be available at the push of a button. In the classroom I can easily see this being used as a go-to tool for quick communications like questions, requests, and statements.
Interestingly enough, sign language is considered a low tech form of AAC according to aacdevices.com.
One high tech tool I decided to research is called the Boardmaker® with Speaking Dynamically Pro v.6 and is available from this link. I chose this tool because it is the most expensive on the site's best seller list. The Boardmaker® is software for Windows and Mac that gives students the ability to learn and communicate with many notable features like word prediction, abbreviation and expansion, and the ability to store frequently used phrases. In the classroom this is actually used as a learning tool for students to develop their writing and speech abilities. First they compose messages using the software's word prediction technology and then they listen to their messages to practice their speech.
For students with special needs where accessibility is an issue, an Input Device provides an easy way for students to reach out and communicate. These Input Devices are used mainly with students who have physical or mental disabilities and cannot use normal devices like keyboards. These students can use touch-sensitive pads, selection switches, or pointing devices.
Here is a link to a great pdf article that explains everything about these input devices:
Use of Computer Technology to Help Students with Special Needs
link. This joystick is a fully functioning replacement of a standard mouse and works with both Windows and Mac. Features include removable finger covers and recessed function buttons. Students can use this joystick to left-click, right-click, scroll, and double-click just like any ordinary mouse. You can also change the speed of the cursor. In the classroom and at home this tool is used as a replacement for a standard computer mouse for students with special needs. Now accessibility isn't as much of a problem; students can move their hands around this joystick instead of fidgeting with a mouse.
One software option I researched is called iCommunicator and is available from this link. This software provides a variety of different tools to help students with special needs communicate and is designed mainly for students who are deaf or hard-of-hearing. This tool is ideal for students with accessibility issues because it only requires the students to speak to the computer instead of having to type. Students can talk through a microphone and the iCommunicator software will turn everything they say into typed words and sentences. The software offers speech to text, speech or text to video sign language, and speech or text to computer voice. This seems like an amazing tool and can be used on a variety of students whose accessibility needs differ. In the classroom this can be used for everything from everyday communication to writing essays and reports. This software allows students to go to the next level and communicate through technology simply by talking to the computer. As a dual-use, teachers can also use this program to generate sign language videos for students and generate computer voice outputs of text.