(This blog was updated on July 6th, 2020.)
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.
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.
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.
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 came up with a way to support existing Proloquo2Go users who, right after the lockdown, had no access at home. This included therapists and students who already use Proloquo2Go and have it on school iPads. From May until July, we provided temporary licenses until September.
With these temporary licenses, our intention was to give schools some time to make arrangements. By September, we expect that with the new school season starting in the northern hemisphere (where most of the requests were from), schools are either reopening or have had enough time to arrange for access to communication.
Update from July 6th, 2020: We are no longer accepting applications for free licenses.
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 the feasibility and positive impact. Take care, and stay healthy!