Imagine for a moment that your three year old daughter has a disability that stops her from using her voice to communicate. Then imagine that a combination of an iPad and a specialized app gave her the ability to talk to you, requesting things, express her needs, and even say, “Daddy, I love you.”
I don’t know about you, but I’d see that iPad and app as some sort of technological miracle.
Now, imagine that the app was pulled from the app store.
That’s exactly what happened to Maya Nieder, a little girl with a disability who needs an augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) system to express herself. Typically, devices that do this cost in excess of $5,000. An iPad with specialized software on it can do that for far less – around $300 for the software plus the cost of the specific iPad. Maya’s mom, Dana, is understandably upset.
“Maya can speak to us, clearly, for the first time in her life, writes Dana Neider in her blog. “We are hanging on her every word. We’ve learned that she loves talking about the days of the week, is weirdly interested in the weather, and likes to pretend that her toy princesses are driving the bus to school (sometimes) and to work (other times). This app has not only allowed her to communicate her needs, but her thoughts as well. It’s given us the gift of getting to know our child on a totally different level.”
The lawsuit involves the app developer of Speak For Yourself, Heidi LoStracco and Renee Collender – both speech pahtologists – and an AAC device maker, Prentke Romich Company (PRC). The hardware developer claimed in a lawsuit that the app infringes on over 100 of their patents, and requested that Apple remove the software from their App Store. Collender and LoStracco counter filed, claiming that the lawsuit is baseless.
Regardless, the app has been removed from the App Store by Apple. The lawsuit has not been resolved, either.
Luckily, Maya still has the originally downloaded app on her iPad, so she can use the app to speak. Her parents, however, worry about eventual iOS updates and incompatibility with the AAC app, they worry about a request from PRC to remotely remove the app if it’s found to be infringing, and they worry about not being able to know what their child has to say.
I know how I’d feel.