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The politics of speaking with an automated A.A.C. voice

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As a person who has used an A.A.C. device for most of myProloquo2Go Voice Menu life I have become used to speaking with a computerized, automated voice. So when I encounter people in public, they barely hear my natural voice since I cannot speak words eligibly due to my cerebral palsy.  People then identify my voice with the voice of the A.A.C. device, which poses a few political and philosophical questions. For example, is my voice tied to A.A.C. technology and do others define my voice or do I do?

My view of my A.A.C. devices are that they are tools that assist in my communication. So when I have multiple A.A.C. devices or programs at my disposal to choose from, I just use them interchangeably depending on which one is best qualified for the situation. So I never felt tied to one particular A.A.C. device or program.So I don’t think my voice is bound to A.A.C. technology in a restrictive sense, but the technology accentuates my voice so I can express my voice in a liberating way.

On most A.A.C. devices or programs that I have used to communicate there were a few automated voice options that I could choose from. I usually choose one main voice to communicate, but sometimes I choose other voices to express myself for variety or joking around with friends. For example on the Proloquo2Go A.A.C. app I use to communicate I usually use the voice named Ryan, which is a very clear voice with a generic white American accent. This voice is very good for when I do presentations.  The other voice that I like to use on the app is named Saul, which according to Proloquo2Go is the Hip Hop male adult voice. I think it is there political correct way to say it is the African American voice. Anyway, I think the voice sounds similar to one of my favorite spoken word poets, Saul Williams, so I like to use that voice when I recite my own poetry. Some people I know would like me to only use the voice of Ryan because they say the voice of Saul does not pronounce some voices clearly. I feel that as an African American man I should be able to choose the voice that best represents me and Saul is useful when I want a certain cadence in my voice.

What is always crucial to realize that it is up to the person who uses A.A.C. to define his or her voice for himself or herself. In my Making Contact segment I will interview a few people who use A.A.C. who successfully use the technology to express themselves. Please tune in when the show airs in September.

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