AAC Vocabulary

Needed Vocabulary for Socially Valued Adult Roles

Individuals who use augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) and their families have new expectations for life after high school, including attending college, becoming employed, managing personal assistance services and transportation, and having intimate relations. However, the vocabulary needed to support these socially-valued adult roles is frequently not be available in pre-programmed devices nor in commonly used visual symbol systems. This website contains vocabulary needed to participate in 8 socially-valued adult roles:

  • College Life
  • Emergency Preparedness
  • Employment
  • Sexuality, Intimacy, and Sex
  • Reporting Crime and Abuse
  • Managing Personal Assistance Services
  • Managing Health Care, and
  • Using Transportation

In addition, where possible, for each vocabulary set, graphic symbols and icon sequences in 2 widely-used symbol sets are provided to correspond with each needed vocabulary item. These symbol sets are as follows:

  • Unity 128 icon sequences,
  • Picture Communication Symbols (PCS), and
  • Dynasyms

Sixteen online focus groups were used to generate needed words for each of the 8 vocabulary sets. From these 8 lists, discrepancy analyses were conducted to determine whether graphic symbols or symbol combinations in each of the two commonly-used symbol sets could represent those words. All missing vocabulary for each of the 8 vocabulary sets was transferred to the manufacturers with the hope that new symbols or symbol sets would be developed where needed. In the case of Unity 128, Sarah Lever, long time user of Unity 128, developed many of the icon sequences.

This work grew out of research conducted by the Institute on Disabilities in conjunction with the Rehabilitation Engineering Research Center on Communication Enhancement funded by the National Institute on Disability Rehabilitation Research [link no longer available]. (View the original research paper).


Vocabulary Sets

AAC Referral Form:
This form is for use by supports coordinators for Philadelphia IDS only. Download and print ONLY (Word document). Once completed, please follow instructions on the form for submission.
Download referral form.

Institute on Disabilities at Temple University
University Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities Education, Research and Service