“The less I type, the better”: How AI Language Models can Enhance or Impede Communication for AAC Users

Stephanie Valencia
Richard Cave
Krystal Kallarackal
Katie Seaver
ACM Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (ACM CHI) 2023, ACM(2023) (to appear)


Users of augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) devices sometimes find it difficult to communicate in real time with others due to the time it takes to compose messages. AI technologies such as large language models (LLMs) provide an opportunity to support AAC users by improving the quality and variety of text suggestions. However, these technologies may fundamentally change how users interact with AAC devices as users transition from typing their own phrases to prompting and selecting AI-generated phrases. We conducted a study in which 12 AAC users tested live suggestions from a language model across three usage scenarios: extending short replies, answering biographical questions, and requesting assistance. Our study participants believed that AI-generated phrases could save time, physical and cognitive effort when communicating, but felt it was important that these phrases reflect their own communication style and preferences. This work identifies opportunities and challenges for future AI-enhanced AAC devices.