A new website has been launched aimed at augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) users, parents, carers and professionals, which brings together evidence and information to improve support and services for people with speech difficulties.

The website, www.AACknowledge.org.uk, has been developed by Communication Matters, an organisation that supports children and adults who need AAC.

Communication Matters hope that AACknowledge will increase awareness of relevant evidence through a bibliography of published research into AAC. Shaped by the AAC community, the website presents case studies, frequently asked questions, factsheets, glossaries, summaries of articles in plain English and links to other sources of information helping people who use AAC and the people supporting them to make informed and independent choices about support needed.

Traditionally there has been a lack of information, evidence and funding to support the complex needs of people who use AAC. It is estimated that 305,000 children and adults in the UK will need AAC at some point in their lives. Some 30,500 – or 10% of them – have the most complex needs, which demand access to specialised AAC services and equipment.

Commissioned as part of its three-year AAC Evidence Base Research Project, the website has been funded through the Big Lottery Fund and been developed by Manchester Metropolitan University in association with Communication Matters.

David Morgan, Communication Matters’ research lead, said:  “Every person has the right to a voice, yet many people are not being empowered to access the equipment, information and support services they need to enable them to communicate. AAC makes a monumental difference to the lives of children, young people and adults giving them a means to communicate and the ability to make effective choices in their lives. For too long, people who use AAC, professionals and family members have not had easy access to AAC information and evidence and this had to change.

“The AACknowledge website will make a tangible difference to users of AAC and their families, professionals including speech and language therapists and GPs, AAC suppliers, the research community and voluntary organisations.” 

Dr Janice Murray, head of speech pathology and therapy at Manchester Metropolitan University, added: “The AACknowledge website is a welcome addition. The website infrastructure and content was developed through consultation and collaboration with AAC stakeholder groups. This makes the content relevant and of immense benefit, filling a void that has existed around access to AAC information and knowledge.

“This initial content will be regularly updated and continue to be responsive to the needs of the visitors to the site. The case stories and academic research information has been very positively received thus far.”