Let’s Talk AAC Blog: Communicators in Action

Ambassadors are real people who share their stories of everyday life as a person using AAC.

The Up Cost of Communicating

Posted August 2, 2016 in Communicators in Action

When people hear about the cost of a high-tech communication device, they are often flabbergasted. At a price in the mid to upper four digits, it is really difficult to blame them for their reaction.

By Brad Whitmoyer, PRC Ambassador

When people hear about the cost of a high-tech communication device, they are often flabbergasted. At a price in the mid to upper four digits, it is really difficult to blame them for their reaction. Especially if they know that many, maybe even all, of the newer models are basic tablets that have a unique piece software on them for communicating and a couple of other modifications to help with access for people with physical disabilities. Not to mention the modifications that make these devices so durable that they can survive tumbling down stairs (though I don't recommend trying this just for fun). It is still a little hard to swallow the prices of these devices but I'm here to shed some light on the manner. I could go the sympathetic way and talk about kids who for the first time are able to communicate with their parents by having a device. However, I like to be more concrete in my messages so I am going to be explaining how these devices actually save money, in my life at least.

I am thirty-two years old with cerebral palsy. I live by myself in an apartment where I have staff who come in to help me with various daily tasks that I cannot do for myself. Tasks such as meal preparation, feeding myself, personal hygiene tasks, and other daily tasks. The biggest hurdle in my everyday life that makes almost everything a challenge revolves around the fact that I cannot use my hands very well. Think for a second about how many things you use your hands for on a daily basis and how it might impact your life if you couldn't use them. I'm not looking for pity or glory here, just using this as a bridge to show how my communication device helps me.

A very important safety task that I am unable to do is pick up and dial the phone. Without the ability to use the phone, there would be no way I could safely be left alone in my apartment. This would then require me to have staff in my apartment twenty-four hours a day, every single day. The cost of such staffing would be about $160,000/year. By me having staffing come into my apartment for just seven hours a day, due to the fact that I have a communication device, my staffing only costs about $54,000/year. A savings of $106,000 each and every year.

Now if you want to be super technical, this is a little over exaggerated because we didn't take into account the cost of the communication device. For the sake of ease, let's say a communication device costs $8,000 and at the time of this writing, the general rule is that an individual gets a new one every five years. To make comparison easier, this equates to about $1,600/year. So technically by me getting a communication device every five years, I'm saving the government about $104,400 every year.

The above is only a part of how this $8,000 communication device saves the government money. Another key part is the simple fact that I am able to have a job thanks to my device. When I was in high school, I wanted a regular day job like a lot of my “able body” classmates were getting. This turned out to be quite a feat and ultimately never materialized due to that I can't use my hands which ruled out most jobs. I was told that I needed to go to college and then look for a job. So like a minion, I did as told. After two year of college, I was tired of learning what I didn't think was beneficial. So I went to a computer store, bought a $400 computer that I turned into a web server and started a business building websites. This would be virtually impossible if I didn't have a communication device.

I have had my own company that does much more today than websites now for about twelve years. Because I have a company, I pay taxes and I even pay for some of the equipment and services I require due to my disability. It is difficult to quantify how much this saves the government but you can get the idea. Instead of just requiring funds, I am able to contribute to society and able to contribute to myself. All of this would be just about impossible without a communication device throughout my life.