Accessibility, Internationalisation, Localisation

Proloquo2Go and language – where assistive tech and language meet

It’s always good to talk about the ways developers have improved their offerings – it’s a nice breath of fresh air after finding so many issues.

AssistiveWare’s Proloquo2Go is an iOS app for assistive and augmentative communication – it’s a text-to-speech app that allows people who need help with speech, or who can’t speak, to communicate with other people. One of the major advantages of using Proloquo2Go with an iPad, iPhone or iPod Touch is that it’s a lot cheaper than using a dedicated text-to-speech device like a Dynavox (which is a Windows PC with specialised text-to-speech software installed, and costs about three times as much as a basic iPad if not more).

Proloquo2Go has recently added vocabulary sets for British and Australian English. In the past they had voices for multiple English dialects, but all the vocabulary and spellings for the selected items was American, which led to people having the right accent, but having the wrong words to talk about things without somebody going in and editing the default vocabulary sets. People can now talk about their school holidays instead of vacations, eat crisps instead of potato chips and have cars represented with the steering wheel on the right instead of the left for people who live in left-hand drive countries. It took them a few years to do this, but I’m glad it’s been done. Any move away from a development mindset that assumes the USA is the sum total of the English-speaking world is a positive move that deserves praise here. (Now, if only you had an option to change the voices installed at default, so you don’t have default American voices even if you’re set to English Australia, and have to re-install your preferred accented voices every time you update the application.)

They’re also starting to expand beyond English, adding a Spanish option. Like the English option, there will be different vocabulary settings for different Spanish dialects, so both Spanish and Latin American speakers can use the words that make the most sense for them. The Spanish translation isn’t out yet, but they’re starting work on it. Proloquo2Text, their text-to-speech product for people who don’t need to use symbolic communication, has Spanish voices available, but that’s different from creating a symbolic text-to-speech system that anticipates grammatical usage, contains pre-loaded vocabulary and recognises the cultural nuances that may come up in Spanish-speaking countries.

I’ve got one tiny qualm however – I was playing around with the new English settings to see the difference between the UK and US vocabulary options. Choosing UK English doesn’t change the spellings in the settings (just for the pre-set vocabulary options), so you still see a lot of American spellings in the UI – a lot of missing Us in words like ‘colour’. Let’s be fair though – this may not be AssistiveWare’s fault but Apple’s, however; until iOS 8 it wasn’t possible to distinguish between regional variants of a single language in the UI if you used native iOS tools, unless the application was made by Apple themselves. Maybe this will be changed in a later release, since it’s an easy localisation to make.

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