Apps help the disabled communicate. So why won’t Medicaid pay for them?

Technology gets more amazing every day. Satellites guide us from our driveways all the way to a grocery store in Ohio. A webcam enables a soldier in Afghanistan to talk face-to-face with his wife in Nebraska. And a new wave of iPhone apps allows individuals with disabilities to communicate with others — some, for the very first time.

At 235 megabytes, Proloquo2Go turns a standard iPhone into a fully functional augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) device. Co-designed by Penn State doctoral student Samuel Sennott and carried by iPhone app developer AssistiveWare, Proloquo2Go “provides a full-featured communication solution for people who have difficulty speaking,” such as individuals with autism, Lou-Gehrig’s Disease, Down syndrome or cerebral palsy. Like any other AAC device, it combines symbols, words, sounds and technology (source) to guide its user through an intuitive, hierarchical system of sentence-building software. Added to that, it hosts a minimum vocabulary of 7,000 words and life-like voices — and, at approximately $150 (not including the iPhone), costs a fraction of the $8,000- $10,000 families pay for cumbersome text-to-speech machines.