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Communication practices and needs of multilingual persons in need of/using AAC

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Aim: The aim of the presentation is twofold: First, we will situate AAC intervention and system design within the multilingual South African context with reference to current language policy and use. Second, we will report on the outcomes of a survey aimed at determining the communication practices and needs of South African multilingual persons using or in need of AAC.

Method: To address the first aim, language policies
as well as research on language practices and use in South Africa have been reviewed. To address the second aim, a predominantly quantitative survey design using interviews and questionnaires will be used to gather information from persons who use or need AAC and stakeholders recruited through snowball sampling. The questionnaire for people who need or use AAC has been developed and piloted with seven participants.

Results: Language policy and use in South Africa have complex histories. Practitioners and researchers in the field should be reflective of how these influence AAC implementation and also question the concept of ‘best practice’ in contexts of diversity. One avenue that can help to ensure client-centred intervention is stakeholder input. Data from the pilot study suggested that multilingual AAC systems were desirable, but that literacy in home language could be a potential challenge. Data for the main study will be presented at the conference.

Conclusion: Understanding language policy and practice in general and amongst multilingual persons in need of AAC and their families in particular can meaningfully inform how AAC systems are designed for this population.


Kerstin Tönsing    
Centre for Augmentative and Alternative Communication
South Africa

Georg Schlünz    
Human Language Technologies, Meraka Institute, CSIR
South Africa

Karin Van Niekerk    
Centre for Augmentative and Alternative Communication
South Africa


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