Augmentative communication with Android: Free Speech review

I haven’t been using my tablet much lately because it hurts my fingers and I have a lot of work to do, and sustained serious work requires my laptop and the “good” assistive tech. However, it does have its uses. One, which I hadn’t expected, is augmentative communication. Out of curiosity, I installed Tony Atkins’ Free Speech — one of the few apps that give the choice of using text as well as icons.

The interface is fairly simple. The idea is that you can create buttons for phrases, and organize the phrases into tabbed categories. The buttons can be labeled with text or pictures. You can bring up your onscreen keyboard from the bottom menu to type a novel utterance. A long press turns the phrase into a button. I’d like to see a way to clear the text field; at the moment you have to backspace or long-press select then backspace.

In typing mode, Free Speech also stores your history. There doesn’t appear to be a way to clear the history. If you want to go back to your buttons, you have to exit typing mode.

It will work with voices from Ivona, Acapela, Cereproc and SVOX, as well as the built in voice. You can use voices in other languages as long as you set that language in your main device settings. Be aware that Free Speech will use whatever speech engine you’ve set as your device default unless you change your device settings via Language & Input > Text-to-speech output. You might want to restart the app after you do that.

I thought I might use this program for group meetings where I tend to be talked over by some people and can’t get a word in, and made buttons for “Excuse me” and “Could you please let me finish?” and so forth. I haven’t had to use it yet, but I think it could work. With a few improvements to the typing mode and adding the ability to use typing and buttons simultaneously, Free Speech could turn into a fine text based augmentative communication app for daily use.

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