Communicate PA: Everyone Communicates

The wikispace CommunicatePA will be retired on July 15th. Check out our new resource repository at

You can easily share content, submit a listing in our directory and more!


Disclaimer: This site and information, links and resources contained herein, are intended as a forum and resource for sharing and gathering information only and should not be interpreted to mean endorsement by the Office of Developmental Programs (ODP) or any of its partners. Unless otherwise stated, information on this website is not intended to represent the policies, positions or intentions of the ODP or any state agency.

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This non-exclusive community has come together in an effort to unite all individuals concerned with communication rights for Pennsylvanians with intellectual disability, autism and other disabilities that create complex communication needs. This wikispace aims to serve as a mechanism for:
  • Sharing ideas and resources (including appropriate and/or promising practices)
  • Raising awareness of issues and barriers for individuals with complex communication needs
  • Problem solving through collaboration

Members of the Communicate PA Community include:
  • Individuals with disabilities (including users of augmentative and alternative communication)
  • Family members
  • Advocates
  • Service providers
  • Policy makers
  • Other stakeholders
Members of this community are encouraged to contribute and help develop this wikispace with the goal of creating a user-friendly resource for finding and sharing information about communication for individuals with complex communication needs.Join Now

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Visit the Calendar page for updates on news, training, and events.
If you are signed on as a member, you can add your own event on the Calendar - Discussion tab OR contact us to post your event here.


November is AT Awareness Month!


Assistive Technology Awareness Month
November 2016

WHEREAS, Pennsylvanians of all ages with disabilities may need assistive technology devices and services to live independently and productively, as well as to participate fully in their communities; and

WHEREAS, assistive technology devices and services allow people to work, attend school, play and live in the community of their choice; and

WHEREAS, an assistive technology device is any item, piece of equipment or product system, whether acquired commercially, modified or customized, that is used to increase, maintain or improve the functional capabilities of individuals with disabilities or older citizens; and

WHEREAS, assistive technology services are defined as any service that directly assists an individual in the selection, acquisition or use of an assistive technology device; and

WHEREAS, assistive technology devices and services are not luxury items, but necessities for people with disabilities and older citizens. These tools empower people to control their lives and their futures; and

WHEREAS, Pennsylvania is a leader in the development and implementation of assistive technology programs for its citizens with disabilities and older residents.

THEREFORE, In special recognition of the importance of assistive technology, I, Tom Wolf, Governor of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, do hereby proclaim November 2016 to be ASSISTIVE TECHNOLOGY AWARENESS MONTH. I encourage all citizens to become aware of the many ways in which assistive technologies contribute to the health, happiness and independence of our family, friends and neighbors.

GIVEN under my hand and the Seal of the Governor, at the City of Harrisburg, this seventeenth day of October two thousand sixteen, the year of the commonwealth the two hundred forty-first.

Tom Wolf

Power AAC

Check out our Information Resources (or click on Yoda above) for news about PaTTAN's Power AAC Project.

April 2nd is World Autism Awareness Day

World Autism Awareness Day is an internationally recognised day on the 2nd of April every year, encouraging Member States of the United Nations to take measures to raise awareness about children with autism throughout the world. It was designated by the United Nations General Assembly resolution "62/139.

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ACES makes the big time! Read the blog post on Praactical AAC.

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Link to Praactical AAC

Jane Odom of PRC blogs on 50 years of communication...and ACES!


Disability Rights Network of Pennsylvania Announces Name Change and New Logo

Disability Rights Network of Pennsylvania becomes Disability Rights Pennsylvania.

Harrisburg/Philadelphia/Pittsburgh – The Disability Rights Network of Pennsylvania (DRN), a leader in disability rights legal and advocacy services for nearly forty (40) years, announced today that it has changed its name to Disability Rights Pennsylvania (DRP), effective immediately. The name change coincides with the release of a new logo.

The new website can be found at

“Disability Rights Pennsylvania simply states our purpose which is to protect and advocate for the rights of Pennsylvanians with disabilities.” said Peri Jude Radecic, Chief Executive Officer of DRP.

In addition to the name change, DRP’s website ( has moved to DRP staff email addresses have changed from to

Disability Rights Pennsylvania (DRP) is the statewide protection and advocacy agency for Pennsylvanians with disabilities. DRP protects and advocates for the rights of people with disabilities so that they may live the lives they choose, free from abuse, neglect, discrimination, and segregation. DRP’s vision is a Commonwealth where people of all abilities are equal and free.

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Company Logo
CoughDrop Webinar

PIAT will be hosting a webinar from the creators of CoughDrop, a cloud based AAC app that works on multiple platforms (not just iOS). This training will take place on March 15th at 10:00 am. We want to make this open to anyone who is interested and would like to attend.

I will provide login details as they become available. Meanwhile, save the date!

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Wireless Telecommunication Pilot

For eligible Pennsylvanians with disabilities—Get an iPad Air, iPad mini or iPod touch for telecommunication AT NO CHARGE!

Pennsylvania’s Telecommunication Device Distribution Program (TDDP)

A program of Pennsylvania's Initiative on Assistive Technology (PIAT)

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Young man looking at an Ipad screen

You or someone you know, may be eligible for a FREE WIRELESS DEVICE to improve telecommunication at work, at home and in the community. To be eligible, you must:

  • Be a Pennsylvania resident with a disability that limits your access to mobile telecommunication;
  • Be six years of age or older;
  • Have individual gross income of 200% of the federal poverty level or less (low income); and
  • Have the ability to learn how to use the device.
Several meetings at Temple University in Philadelphia are required throughout the year.

At the end of one year, participants who fulfill all requirements will be given the device.

For more information:

TEL: 800-204-7428 voice / 866-268-0579 TTY


ACES 2016

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photo of a young man using an AAC device to communicate

Augmentative Communication Empowerment Supports

July 18-29, 2016 on the Temple University Main Campus

ACES is a program for young adults who use communication technology (speech generating devices) to develop/refine their skills for effective communication at home, school, work, and in the community.

  • Attend a 10-day “learning experience” on campus.
  • Receive months of preparation and supports from staff
  • Learn to improve communication, computer and daily living skills.
  • Focus on transition from high school to adult life.
  • Create a plan for employment, post-secondary education, and/or community living.


For more information, email us at


Check out the Tablets and Portable Technology page. Information has been added on insurance coverage for iPads for augmentative communication!

Check out our communication board page (on the sidebar) for some new downloadable, activity-based communication boards.

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Discussion Page

"24 Hour Non-Speech Challenge"
The 24 Hour Non Speech Challenge means voluntarily not talking for 24 hours. During that time, only alternative means of communication, such as writing, symbols, gestures, applications, etc. can be used. By attempting this challenge, you will help the general public understand the impact that a communication handicap has on our daily lives and the obstacles that a person who cannot talk faces every day. Let us salute their courage and that of their families. Show your support by sharing their lifelong situation for one day. Read more about it at

Labels Can Mis-Lead: They call him "Non-Verbal"?!?! But he talks!

Many people continue to use the term "non-verbal" to describe people with significant communication challenges. Instead, try "Complex Communication Needs." This describes a person's difficulty with understanding or expressing ideas.
The term “non-verbal” doesn’t accurately describe MOST people. Many AAC users can make sound by mouth (verbal), and even say some words. However, their communication needs are not met by verbal speech only - they need to use additional AAC strategies because of their complex communication needs.

"Amber Communicates" - Featured Story from Office of Developmental Programs
Amber Communicates Photo. Click to view ODP website.

A new featured story – Amber Communicates – is now available on the OCS website ( Amber Communicates inspires other individuals with disabilities, their family members, friends, acquaintances, and professionals to explore ways to open or broaden the lines of communication when traditional methods are not possible.

This story: --Promotes the use of the Essential Life Style Plan and how it helps Amber to enjoy an Everyday Life. --Demonstrates how a young woman is able to interact with those around her by using non-traditional methods of communication.

Told from her mother, Debbie’s, point of view, Amber Communicates is available in written and audio format. Amber and Debbie introduce the story with an audio greeting and a captioned video accompanies the story.

Apps Everywhere! But... Buyer Beware

As mobile technologies like tablet computers (e.g., iPads, Kindle Fire) and smart phones become more and more popular, there seems to be a recent explosion of applications. Many of these programs can support people with disabilities with communication, learning, daily living, behavior, and more. It seems there's an app for everything!

Unfortunately, new estimates show that 26% of downloaded apps are only used once. That can result in a lot of wasted time, effort, and money.

For some simple suggestions on how to decide BEFORE you buy, read the "There's an app for that! But is it right for you?" article here.

Also, view this video clip from Sesame Street for a funny perspective on all the apps, or read more on the iTechnology page.

Action Alerts

Check back to find topics and issues related to communication and disability that you can contact elected officials about. Also, tell us (by posting on the discussion board or contacting us) about topics and issues related to communication and disability that elected officials need to be contacted about

Office of Developmental Programs to Release Update of Communication Bulletin

See the ODP Page for links to information about programs and policies for the Commonwealth.

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This virtual community is funded by the Office of Developmental Programs, Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare and implemented by the Institute on Disabilities at Temple University.