Department of Special Education and Communication Disorders


Document Type


Date of this Version



Published in Disability and Rehabilitation: Assistive Technology, 2021



Copyright © 2021 Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group. Used by permission.


Purpose: In contrast to the traditional grid-based display, visual scene displays (VSDs) offer a new paradigm for aided communication. For individuals who cannot select items from an AAC display by direct selection due to physical impairments, AAC access can be supported via methods such as item scanning. Item scanning sequentially highlights items on a display until the individual signals for selection. How items are highlighted or scanned for AAC access can impact performance outcomes. Further, the effectiveness of a VSD interface may be enhanced through consultation with experts in visual communication. Therefore, to support AAC access for those with physical impairments, the aim of this study was to evaluate the perspectives of experts in visual communication regarding effective methods for highlighting VSD elements.

Methods: Thirteen participants with expertise related to visual communication (e.g., photographers, artists) completed semi-structured interviews regarding techniques for item highlighting.

Results: Study findings identified four main themes to inform how AAC items may be highlighted or scanned, including (1) use of contrast related to light and dark, (2) use of contrast as it relates to color, (3) outline highlighting, and (4) use of scale and motion.

Conclusion: By identifying how compositional techniques can be utilized to highlight VSD elements, study findings may inform current practice for scanning-based AAC access, along with other selection techniques where feedback or highlighting is used (e.g., eye-gaze, brain-computer interface). Further, avenues for just-in-time programming are discussed to support effective implementation for those with physical impairments.