Software development for these tools can be difficult – especially when it comes to AAC. "You need many different input options (joysticks, scanning, eye tracking technology) to make it easy for people with a wide range of assistive technology tools to actually use them. It also takes technological pedagogical content knowledge pertaining to software design and concept to reach the target audience," Hofer explains. LIFEtool thus relies on an interdisciplinary concept: the organization involves people with disabilities, software development experts, and educators in the development process.
Products such as KlickTool or CatchMe are early intervention tools that have become staples in the portfolio. Applications like FlashWords to learn math, writing and reading skills are must-have tools. Also GoTalk Now is a popular customizable AAC app. "Today, educational software is an integral part of helping AAC users or people with disabilities to succeed," says Hofer. Incidentally, this does not just apply to this target audience: the coronavirus pandemic has given educational software or media and virtual learning formats for students of all ages a substantial boost.
That being said, the coronavirus pandemic was and remains a challenge for LIFEtool. We can all agree that it has changed the way we communicate. Hofer concurs and says that the nature of communication with customers and partners in research and development projects has suddenly changed and has become more effective and often more intense. LIFEtool has learned to also build virtual bridges. While the learning curve has been steep at times, it ultimately made things better: "This situation has generally increased awareness of the need of people with disabilities and older adults for computer-aided communication as a way to participate in social, digital, and virtual activities."
Enter Liam, who is a beacon of hope for Hofer. The young man uses his computer to control his Lego technic cars and drone and even writes his own programs. "Liam uses technology at a nearly unfathomable scale. This technical environment fosters his problem-solving skills, which will benefit us all in the future. This makes him a bearer of hope in my eyes," says Hofer. That is also why the Austrian continues to emphasize at trade fairs or other tech events that technology and software should adapt to people, not the other way around. The person should always be at the center of these considerations. The CEO of LIFEtool hopes that one day it will be a matter of course for someone with Liam’s skills "to become the CEO of LIFEtool thanks to an inclusive education system." Provided that this is something Liam wants. That goes without saying.