A year after the launch of the beta version of CoughDrop an official release is available to download. Special World spoke to developer Brian Whitmer to find out what has changedIt was a year ago at ATiA in Orlando that I first came across CoughDrop. I was crisscrossing the exhibition hall looking for exhibitors that were new to me and attracting noticeable attention. In a small booth to the side of the hall Brian Whitmer was demonstrating his new Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) app and handing out tee shirts to an enthusiastic group of onlookers. Whitmers app, the beguilingly named CoughDrop, was still in development stage but there was already a buzz about it. Some of my colleagues had described it as ‘something different’ – an elusive thumbs up in exhibitions where too often genuinely ‘new’ products can be hard to find.
Back in the UK I contacted Whitmer to ask if he would be interested in writing a piece about CoughDrop for Special World. He readily agreed and submitted an article that not only explained what he was hoping to achieve but what had sparked his interest in AAC. One of the things I liked about his story is that he wasn’t content with just drawing on his own experiences as a successful designer of technology and the father of his daughter Becca, who has Retts Syndrome. As he explained in the article, ‘I wanted to make sure I wasn’t just seeing things, so I started reaching out to speech therapists, assistive technology specialists, parents, etc to get their take on the current state of AAC.’
This dialogue continued well beyond ATiA 2015. Back then CoughDrop was free. As Whitmer explained, he was more concerned with getting it right than making a quick buck, so the ‘fee’ for use was feedback. This week Whitmer is back in Orlando with the first official release of CoughDrop. If you happen to be there you can pay him a visit on Booth 715.
We’ve received some really great feedback since launching the beta version of our app just over a year ago, Now we’re excited to have it available for download in the App Store and on Google Play, as well as on any web-enabled device.
One of CoughDrop’s distinctive features is that it is a cloud-based application, so changes can be made to communicators’ ‘boards’ without having to take the device away from the user. It also means ‘boards’ can be automatically backed-up and synced, great should a device be broken.
We want to free up communication so it’s not so stuck on a single device. I know from personal experience with my son how frustrating it is when an individual’s voice is lost because of a broken device, a dead battery, or even just to take it away to program in some new words.
says Scot Wahlquist, Director of Business Development.
Being cloud based also means the support team around the communicator can use their own devices to access boards and reports.
One of the best indicators for success is how engaged the team is around a struggling communicator. Having access to boards and reports across devices lets parents get to know the vocabulary, helps therapists use their session time more effectively, and keeps everyone on the same page – all while no longer having to take away the communicator’s speech device.
CoughDrop can also be run on multiple devices at the same time, so some communicators leave one device at home and another at school or college.
Other changes prompted by field research include the addition of some administrative tools to make it easier for school districts and programs that bulk purchase licenses for communicators, and some additional reports that show parts of speech. The latter demonstrate the added value that comes of involving speech and language pathologists in evaluating the app.
And true to the spirit of CoughDrop’s mission it is now published as an open-source product, which means anyone can access the source code used to build the app.
We believe that a communicator’s voice shouldn’t be locked in a proprietary system, CoughDrop can export content using open standards, and even the app itself is open source, so there’s always freedom of access for the individual
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Today CoughDrop is still available with a free two-month trial for anyone signing up on its website. Should you decide you like it you can choose either a monthly subscription (currently $6 a month) or a long-term purchase (currently $200 for five years). And if you can’t be in Orlando, Whitmer tells me CoughDrop will also be exhibiting at the TSHA’s 60th Convention & Exhibition in Fort Worth in March (Booth 1113) and at the CSHA Annual Convention & Exhibition in Anaheim in late April/early May (Booth 110). Oh, and for the stay-at-homes there’s a video which neatly summarises what CoughDrop is all about: ‘After all, just because someone can’t speak doesn’t mean they don’t deserve to be heard.’