This section includes multiple-message devices that can help an individual to communicate with others. Some are handheld, others are suitable for mounting on a desk or wheelchair. Multiple-message devices have the capacity to store two or more messages.
Communication aids with direct selection. This means the device has symbols on buttons or cells which you press to generate speech output. They may have as few as one or two messages to choose from, or they may have hundreds of messages. The speech output may use digitised speech, synthesised speech or both. Digitised messages are created by recording spoken words directly into the communication aid which can be re-recorded as your needs change. Synthesised speech is artificial, computer-generated. The larger the button or cell size, the less hand control is required to press the button or cell. If you do not have enough hand control or strength, you may prefer communication aids with switch input.
Communication aids with speech output and switch input scanning selection. This means they can be used if you have a disability which results in difficulty pressing a button, key or touchscreen icon. They contain a number of squares which can be lit sequentially or in programmable patterns. Symbols are placed on the squares and you stop the light by activating a switch when the required symbol is illuminated - the selected message will then play. The use of switches allows access through any controllable movement of your body. They can be purchased pre-loaded with icons, but generally you can also add other icon sets or personal images such as photos. Many have touchscreen displays that allow you to change the content and layout of what appears electronically, without overlays. The speech output may use digitised speech, synthesised speech or both. Digitised messages are created by recording spoken words directly into the communication aid. Synthesised speech is artificial, computer-generated speech.
Communication aids with text input via a standard or a touch screen keyboard. You type whatever you want to say and the message is produced by text-to-speech. The speech output may use digitised speech, synthesised speech or both. Digitised messages are created by recording spoken words directly into the communication aid. Synthesised speech is artificial, computer-generated speech. An advantage of this type of communication aid is that is doesn't depend on pre-recorded messages - they speak anything you can type.
There are several factors to consider when purchasing equipment.
In most instances a complaint should initially be made to the supplier who provided you with the item. CAB has a range of guidelines on their website on making a complaint about poor service or faulty goods. These include complaining by phone, complaining in writing and template letters. CAB advice about making a complaint.
If you are not satisfied with the supplier's response then you may choose to complain to:
Safety incidents involving medical devices can be reported to the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) on the GOV UK website www.mhra.gov.uk or their Adverse incident centre hotline 020 3080 7080. The MHRA is the government agency responsible for ensuring that medical devices and medicines work and are acceptably safe. Their definition of 'Medical devices' includes devices used for assisting patients and users, thus many daily living aids such as bath lifts, commodes and walking sticks are medical devices. Any incident involving the safety of a medical device (including safety issues with its instructions for use) should be reported to the MHRA, especially if the incident contributed to, or could have caused injury, life-threatening illness or death.
Buying from a private person gives you fewer rights. You will only be able to claim against the seller if the product doesn't match its description or if the seller did not own it. Consequently, some firms occasionally pretend to be private sellers to avoid their legal responsibilities towards customers. If you suspect this has happened to you find out about your rights and what action to take on the Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) website https://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/consumer/ or call 0345 404 0506 to speak to the Citizen Advice consumer helpline.
The length of the manufacturer's guarantee does not limit any claim you may make to the seller as if a product develops a fault outside the guarantee period you can still claim against the seller if you can show that the fault was unreasonable at that period in the products life.
You may be asked whether you would like to purchase an extended warranty. Remember that your statutory rights exist, under the Sale of Goods Act, whether or not you choose to buy their warranty and whether or not the goods came with any guarantee. Manufacturers' guarantees are separate from the automatic rights you have against the seller, and may be more limited. For more information read the Citizens Advice Bureau guide to guarantees and warranties.
For large complex items, such as a stairlift, check what kind of maintenance contract the supplier offers.
Some suppliers are members of a trade association. Many of these trade associations have a code of practice that governs their members' customer service, and thus may help to project you from unscrupulous selling practices. For example, some trade associations prohibit their members from contacting people uninvited to try and sell their products. They may also prohibit their members from using high pressure selling tactics such as offering a discount if you order that day, or phoning their manager while demonstrating the equipment to you to agree a 'special discount/deal'. Thus if you have a choice of suppliers for the product you wish to purchase we recommend you consider the suppliers who are members of trade association.
We record suppliers' membership of several trade associations (see a list of these trade associations) and our ratings give greater weighting to trade associations with codes of practice which are approved by the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) (e.g. the British Healthcare Trade Association) or governed by an audit scheme which meets the requirements of the United Kingdom Accreditation Service (UKAS).
We also record whether suppliers meet the ISO 9000 series of standards. These standards define a Quality System which certifies that formalised business processes are being applied, and thus may be another indicator to look for if you have a choice of suppliers.
You may be able to purchase equipment designed for use by disabled people without paying the VAT if you are 'chronically sick or disabled', and you are buying the item/s for your own personal or domestic use. For VAT purposes, a person is 'chronically sick or disabled' if they:
So, you won't qualify if you're only temporarily disabled or incapacitated (e.g. if you have a broken leg).
Examples of products which are likely to qualify for VAT relief (if intended for the personal or domestic use of a chronically sick or disabled person) include:
Price is important but, if we list more than one supplier, it is important to look for more than just the cheapest price. Check when the prices were last updated (this should be stated under each price). Consider whether:
Experienced therapists or trusted assessors know a lot about products and will help you make sure the product is right for you now and will continue to be suitable in the future.
You may be able to get an assessment and advice from social services. GOV.UK website
Alternatively you may choose to pay for a private occupational therapist. If you wish to request a private appointment with an occupational therapist then you can obtain details of local private occupational therapists from the 'College of Occupational Therapists Specialist Section - Independent Practice' (COTSS-IP) website. www.cotss-ip.org.uk or phone their enquiry Line: 0845 129 7699.
You can check whether a therapist is state registered with the Health Care professions Council (HCPC) at www.hcpc-uk.org/audiences/
You can find out about products and try them out, with independent advice at an Independent Living Centre (ILC). There are about 30 ILCs in the UK. Most do not sell products but they will be able to tell you where to buy them. We recommend you make an appointment before you visit
You could view equipment at an exhibition. They are a good opportunity to see what's available and meet the competing suppliers. The main exhibition of equipment is NAIDEX, held annually at the National Exhibition Centre in Birmingham, and Glasgow. www.naidex.co.uk