Mechanical & Materials Engineering, Department of


Date of this Version



Published in Disability and Rehabilitation: Assistive Technology 16:7 (2021), pp 796–801.



Copyright © 2020 Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group. Used by permission.


Purpose: Permanent or temporary speech loss can occur due to a variety of medical conditions and often requires individuals to use augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) strategies and technologies to support communication. The use of AAC in medical and rehabilitation settings is critical to ensure the health, safety and psychological well-being of communicatively vulnerable individuals.

Method: This study surveyed the perceived importance of communication messages within five categories (Basic Needs, Patient-Provider Specific Communication, Social, Feelings, and Messages for Young Children) by individuals with disability who have undergone recent medical care as well as by rehabilitation care providers.

Results: Results indicated that, with only a few exceptions, participants with disability more frequently selected all of the messages listed under the Patient-Provider Specific, Social, and Feelings categories compared to rehabilitation care providers’ responses. Additionally, the individuals with disabilities selected messages that were more personalized to their specific care needs under Basic Needs. Both participant groups were asked to also suggest other messages that they perceived as important under each category. The other suggested messages demonstrated the potential need to provide personalization to AAC displays to best meet the communication needs of individuals with disability.

Implications for rehabilitation: There is a critical need for individuals who find themselves in medical settings (ICU, acute care hospital, rehabilitation hospital, etc.) to be able to communicate. This study provides preliminary information on the breadth of communication content that is perceived as relevant by individuals with disability and rehabilitation care providers. The need to provide personalized as well as a wide range of communication content options was of particular importance to individuals with disability. This information may provide specific guidance on how to best develop augmentative and alternative communication options for individuals in medical settings.