AssistiveWare’s response to the coronavirus pandemic

5 minute read

The coronavirus pandemic has a significant impact on AssistiveWare and the community we serve. In this blog post, I will share how the coronavirus has impacted our operations. I will also share how we want to support our community during these difficult times.

(This blog was updated on May 18, 2020.)

Our team

I am writing this from an empty office. The health and wellbeing of our employees and contractors is our top priority. Following government advice, we have all been working from home since March 12th. I am the one exception. Someone needs to take care of our two office cats Starsky and Hutch. Since I live in the same street, the choice was easy.

We have team members in seven different countries across six different time zones. So we have some familiarity with working remotely. Still, for some of us, it is a new experience. Daycare and schools are closed. Those of us with small children have to share time between baby-sitting, teaching, and getting some work done. Two have partners working in hospitals (one is currently recovering from the Coronavirus). Other team members are high-risk or have AAC using children that are at risk. It is not hard to imagine that the productivity of our team is down. Some team members have barely any time to work; others function at 80 or 90% of their normal capacity. We have had to reorganize our work and priorities. We want to ensure that all important support, community, and development work can continue.

AssistiveWare's office cats Starsky and Hutch

Our business

Schools are closing across the globe. Many people are losing their jobs. This has had a big impact on our sales. In three weeks’ time, our revenue has dropped 60%, and our US school sales are down 80%. That is scary. Still, we are committed to keeping all our employees and contractors on board. Together we are stronger. We plan also to support our community as much as we can (more on that below). However, we need to remain sustainable and cannot put the jobs of our team at risk. For example, we cannot afford to give Proloquo2Go away for free.

Our community

A decrease in sales also means that people who need our apps to communicate are not getting them. Those students that rely on schools to purchase iPads and communication apps are affected by the school closures. We are also hearing about students who are at home without their school iPad. Some therapists cannot do teletherapy because they only have the app on their school iPad.

Hard data shows that almost half of the iPads with Proloquo2Go in the USA are not used anymore. In the graph, you can see the impact of US and UK school closures.

Graph Proloquo2Go's usage - US and UK
Source: App Store Analytics. Apple provides developers anonymous data on the number of active devices (only for those devices where the user has opted-in to share such anonymous data).

In general, we find it concerning that during weekends Proloquo2Go is used much less than during school days. Children should be able to speak just as much on weekend days as on weekdays. Many children are now homeschooled with remote lessons. Yet, it appears that many AAC users are left out. Either they don’t get to use their communication device at home or don’t have access to it at home.

Our response - Sharing resources

We want to do what we can to support AAC users and their families in these difficult times. We have already published a series of blog posts on using Proloquo2Go to talk about the virus, on keeping AAC systems germ free, and on using AAC in hospitals during this pandemic. We are also sharing other Coronavirus resources on Facebook. In our Facebook groups, we have started to experiment with live chats and short videos on AAC activities at home. We have many more ideas to support AAC users of all ages.

Update from May 18, 2020: We have created Crescendo quick communication boards for those individuals and families that do not have access to an iPad. You can learn more about these four page communication boards and download them in the Learn AAC section of our website.

Our response - Temporary Proloquo2Go licenses

We have also come up with a way to support existing Proloquo2Go users who currently have no access at home. This includes therapists and students who already use Proloquo2Go and have it on school iPads. To participate, they need to have an iPad running iOS 12.4 or later at home. We are going to provide them with temporary licenses (initially for two months). So if you are a therapist and need to provide teletherapy, you can sign up for our waiting list. If you are a teacher or therapist and are supporting a student that normally has Proloquo2Go at school, you can sign up for the family (if they have a compatible iPad). If your child uses Proloquo2Go at school and has no access at home, please ask your child’s teacher or therapist to sign you up. They will also need to support you in installing and using the app. We are using a waiting list as we will need to process all applications manually.

In conclusion

The coronavirus pandemic has affected our community and us in many ways. We are trying to make the best of this challenging situation. We will do everything possible to get through this together. For this, we need to find a balance between taking care of our staff, our business, and serving our community. We welcome ideas and feedback. Keep in mind that we have limited time and resources. We will thus need to evaluate each idea on feasibility and positive impact. Take care, and stay healthy!