RE: TATN ’08

Uhm, no, not what I said at all.

For instance, I specifically said that you ARE a role model. That is the
basic issue as I see it. Have you ever heard the saying, "actions speak
louder than words?" That is what I’m talking about. Whatever advice you give
to people, they are still going to look at the AAC you use and see that as a
tacit comment about the others. Most people aren’t going to understand the
complicated criteria that can be a part of selecting the "right" AAC for
them. Now do you understand what I was saying?

By the way, I have much the same problem with Dr. Stephen Hawkins. So you’re
in good company! 🙂

I also asked you to respond on my blog instead of in private email. That was
for fairness, so that everyone could read your comments for themselves. I’ll
transfer your response this time, but I encourage you to consider starting a
blog of your own.

I’m glad you’re getting an ECO. That is what I’d pick if I had to have a PRC
product. What I read suggests that an ECO could also run Xpress-It. That’s
an intriguing thought, and I’ve toyed with the idea of bugging Carla for an
evaluation unit. I damn sure couldn’t afford the $8,000 list price! Ow!

You still haven’t told me how you could properly demo things like Xpress-It.
There is a slight possibility that I might convince Dell to provide a laptop
for that purpose, but first I’d have to be comfortable that it was a good

> —–Original Message—–
> From: Texas TERA []
> Sent: Thursday, July 17, 2008 11:15 PM
> To: ‘Scott Royall’;
> Subject: RE: TATN ’08
> Scott,
> I really think there is a misunderstanding here. I never said I didn’t
> like X-Press and it couldn’t work for some people. I never said I didn’t
> think the DEC Talk voice wasn’t out dated. I’ll be getting an ECO in
> the near future that has a better voice. I clearly stated the opposite.
> I have kept all our email contacts. I just feel that you are shoving it
> down my throat that it is what would best for me. With my job, I support
> all of the known AAC devices.
> You say I’m not a role model, funny, I think most peoplr in the AAC
> world would disagree with you.. The problem is I haven’t seen you in
> that world. I am strong advocate for improving AAC devices and
> communicate with AAC manufacture R&D deparrtments. It is your choice
> rather you want to work with me. I’m sorry that you can’t accept our
> differences and move on.
> I sincerely wish you the best of luck.
> ________________________________
> From: Scott Royall []
> Sent: Thursday, July 17, 2008 9:27 PM
> To:;
> Subject: FW: TATN ’08
> Carla,
> Below is a long post I just sent to my blog. Kate also got a copy.
> I’m sorry; I’m well aware that you two are friends, but I found Kate too
> interested in defending the merits of her Minspeak to offer me any
> reason to work with her. I think she misses the whole point rather
> concisely summed up in the final paragraph: as a fellow role-model, her
> actions say far more than words can. The fact that she does travel to
> more conferences further compounds the unspoken message against newer
> products, let alone mine.
> Kate doesn’t need to reply to this email. I won’t respond because that
> would be a waste of our time. However, she’s encouraged to respond on my
> blog if she wants. My blog in my commentary on the realities of my life.
> As such, it will probably be the only legacy I leave behind since
> Xpress-It obviously isn’t going anywhere.
> Scott
> From: Scott Royall []
> Sent: Thursday, July 17, 2008 8:46 PM
> Subject: TATN ’08
> I attended the Texas Assistive Technology Network ’08 a few weeks ago,
> and I promised to write about a couple of people I met there.
> Unfortunately, life has intervened with a number of minor emergencies
> that required my attention, including a couple of computer crashes.
> Another reason why I’m reluctant to start discussing my experience at
> TATN is because I recognize that my comments will probably be considered
> as incendiary, although that’s absolutely not my intention. One lady in
> particular could, and should, be a mutual benefit to herself and me as
> she’s leading an effort to set up a clearinghouse in the Austin area for
> information and technology useful in independent living. This
> clearinghouse is to include examples of assistive technology, such as
> AAC products. Her name is Kate May <> , and
> she is a fellow AAC user as well as having a degree in Special Ed. Yet,
> her comments, both at the conference and in email, raise serious
> questions in my mind regarding her ability to be impartial.
> There, I said it, although I sure didn’t want to.
> To clarify, Kate uses a Minspeak, an older dedicated AAC device by
> Prentke Romich. It’s menu-driven, based on PRC’s Semantic Compaction
> technology. The voice quality is roughly equal to DECTalk, which I first
> saw in 1983. DECTalk wasn’t bad for the time. Indeed, it was the first
> artificial voice to gain any traction with my managers at Shell. The
> release of Windows 95, however, spawned technologies that quickly
> retired DECTalk’s venerable hardware. We literally gave it to a school.
> Yet, Kate’s quite comfortable with her Minspeak, although a friend (who
> I’ll tell you about in a moment) was quick to point that better voices
> are available. Of course, Kate’s reluctance to change AAC products is
> entirely understandable. It’s just an example of a general phenomenon I
> mentioned in my TATN presentation; most people aren’t in love with
> technology, and they find re-learning how to do a task stressful enough
> to be avoided. What Kate has told me says that the environment around
> her, and her own verbal capabilities, do not generate much demand for a
> better artificial voice.
> Kate’s fondness for her Minspeak is certainly her right, and nominally
> only her business if it wasn’t for a couple of emailed statements. She
> told me that she intends to be the primary advisor for people coming to
> TERA, her clearinghouse, looking for AAC options. Ok, but then she said
> that she was "not proficient" in text-to-speech programs similar to
> Xpress-It. Hmm. Although I genuinely don’t mean to pick, that seems to
> be a significant disconnect to me. Saying that different people need
> different AAC solutions should be a given. Still, anyone intending to
> advise others would be well to develop proficiency in the major types. I
> did earn my chops ten years ago. After all, I didn’t write Xpress-It for
> fun. As much as such an arrangement ought to be mutually beneficial, I
> can’t see how I can afford to work with Kate. Sending her a copy of
> Xpress-It wouldn’t help her without an appropriate computer. And, I can’
> t afford to keep someone nearby to represent me, so I guess we can’t do
> business unless something changes.
> It is tempting to say that it’s no surprise that Kate’s friend was a PRC
> employee, but that’s disingenuous in the extreme. Yes, Carla is paid by
> PRC, as a SLP in a consulting capacity. She was quick to observe that
> her paycheck wasn’t tied to PRC sales, at least not directly. What was
> more impressive, though, was her behavior. While Kate didn’t appear
> interested in Xpress-It, asking only one question that I’m aware of,
> Carla was all eyes and ears, very quickly grasping why PRC products were
> inappropriate for me once she knew a bit about the private sector
> environment that I operated in. Rarely do the SLPs I encounter show much
> understanding of life in the Private Sector, but Carla seemed to. About
> the only part that she couldn’t quite get her brain around was why
> hospital SLPs would shun products like Xpress-It in favor of more
> comprehensive solutions. I know the official explanation about SLP
> workloads, but Carla is probably right in suspecting that the deep
> pockets of the larger vendors have something to do with it also. PRC
> historically doesn’t do much business with hospitals either because
> their products are more tuned for the education sector. In any case,
> Carla was a joy to meet, having a uncommon degree of what I call "snap"
> despite her protestations of being a "techno-phobe" (yeah right, Carla).
> Of course, she earned a few points by being easy to look at, and by
> immediately going ga-ga over Lilly. That showed fine taste.
> Long-time readers of my blog know that I tend to favor Private Sector
> solutions whenever possible. Not that the Private Sector gets everything
> right by a long shot, but, as long as there’s healthy competition, it
> will weed out the mistakes. The Public Sector, on the gripping hand,
> operates under a different set of rules that I find rather bizarre
> sometimes. There has been such a push in the last three decades to
> include everyone that various acceptance standards have been lowered
> right into mediocrity. Hardly an evening goes by that my ham friends and
> I don’t meet on-air to bemoan the decline of the "American Way."
> Naturally, I know people have sung that lament since at least 1770.
> However, as I communicated with Kate, I began to realize a likely link
> between the Public Sector’s willingness to accept mediocre performance
> and the almost glacial rate of progress in AAC.
> I do not know that much about Kate’s history. I do know that her degree
> is in Special Education, and she is affiliated with the Austin ISD. I
> don’t know if she has ever worked in the Private Sector. I also am aware
> that disabled people who do seek employment tend to aim for the Public
> Sector directly or through allied companies. That practice does make
> some sense, because competition to find and keep those jobs is less
> intense than for Private Sector equivalents. Even so, some sources put
> unemployment among the Disabled as high as 80%, and I daresay Kate would
> agree that the only way to put a dent in that figure is by enlisting the
> Private Sector much more effectively than it is now. That means that
> people who need AAC solutions can’t afford to settle for "good enough,"
> because employers won’t. I talked about this in my TATN talk; "good
> enough" needs to disappear from the Public Sector lexicon.
> This blog entry is waaay longer than I would like. I would’ve preferred
> to break it up into easily-digestible chunks, but I realized that I had
> a natural train of thought that I needed to follow through before
> opening up to comment. Obviously, Kate is not going to be pleased by my
> viewpoint, and that’s her constitutional right. At least my viewpoint is
> now on the record in its entirety for everyone interested to weigh for
> themselves. My greatest concern is the outcome of what Kate is trying to
> do with her TERA project. I’m frequently told that I’m a de facto
> role-model, and I wonder if Kate truly realizes the fallout of being
> one. She is certainly setting herself up as another role-model while
> using very old AAC, thereby sending a strong unspoken message that
> contradicts anything good she says about the newer technology. In
> effect, I believe Kate is supporting the status quo-albeit unwillingly,
> and I think a serious reality check is called for.
> Internal Virus Database is out of date.
> Checked by AVG.
> Version: 8.0.100 / Virus Database: 270.3.0/1505 – Release Date: 6/16/2008
7:20 AM


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