Survey Shows AAC Terminology Preferences

People who use Alternative and Augmentative Communication (AAC) devices and those who support them talk about these supplemental communication methods in many different ways. While there are lots of terms in use in schools and clinics across the country, a recent survey from AssistiveWare shows the actual preferences of AAC users themselves, with insights for users and professionals.

AssistiveWare conducted this online survey in early 2022 and asked participants how they felt about nearly 119 different words or phrases related to AAC. Overall, a total of 556 people participated, and roughly a third of respondents were AAC users. The following results showcase the preferences of these 169 individuals.

Respondents highly preferred the terms (in order): AAC user, people who use AAC, AAC device (tablet, iPad, etc.), Nonspeaking (when referring to nonspeaking people as a group), and people (in contrast to patients, consumers, clients, etc.) Above all, participants also highly prefer to be asked for their preferences.

In contrast, respondents did not prefer deficit-based language, such as "people with highly unintelligible speech" or "speech deficit." Respondents also voted down unfamiliar acronyms (apart from AAC), such as PWUAAC, PWCCN, CCN, VOGA, and SGD.

Again, while there are general preferences, the survey revealed no monolithic support for a set series of phrases or identifiers. As respondents themselves stressed, it is best practice to check in with people about individual preferences; however, these results do shed light on preferred terms within the AAC community.