CoughDrop has joined Forbes AAC

Mar 1, 2023

Hi all! You may or may not have heard the news yet, but CoughDrop and Forbes AAC are joining up in what we hope can be a great pairing of software and hardware resources. We have collaborated with the Forbes team many times over the years and have been happy with their work and contribution to the AAC community, so it will be great to work even more closely going forward. I want to provide a little more clarity on the how and why of this change because, as I hope we've been able to make clear over the years, we strongly value openness and cooperation.

Brian Whitmer taking a selfie with a funny smile wearing a CoughDrop tshirt.

CoughDrop has been formally acquired by Forbes AAC (through the sale of CoughDrop assets to a Forbes-owned subsidiary called MavWare, LLC). This wasn't my original plan for CoughDrop when I started this research-project-turned-product almost ten years ago, but I think it'll be a good thing overall. The main driver for this, if I'm being completely honest, is that I need to focus more of my time on my family than I've needed to in the past. Many of you know that our oldest daughter has Rett Syndrome -- and while Rett Syndrome is not degenerative, in some cases the symptoms can kind of pile up over time. Many of you also know that it can be hard to find empowering environments for AAC users, especially those with complex needs, so we're working through some of that as well. I am still very emotionally and personally invested in the trajectory of AAC, and I plan to keep pushing for changes that still need to happen.

After discussions with the Forbes AAC team, we decided that they could provide a stable long-term home for CoughDrop, and the combined offering of CoughDrop's software with Forbes' hardware has a lot of interesting potential. The CoughDrop team isn't changing in a major way, and I will still be involved in ongoing development and strategy for the time being. We will keep the free 2-month trial for new AAC users, and the monthly and long-term purchase options will remain available for individual AAC users. Our hope is that more options should open up for SLP- and school-supported purchasing because of Forbes' expertise in insurance funding. We will continue to partner with the schools and organizations that have purchased CoughDrop and provide them with ongoing support and training.

Brian demonstrating AAC functions on a computer to people at a conference.

There are some things that are changing, however. If you aren't into software development, then the next paragraph may sound confusing, and make you think that the boards people have created and shared won't be available anymore. Please be assured that user-created content is not changing, public and private boards will stay the same, and stay just as accessible as before. The board sets we have created and shared with the community like Quick Core, Vocal Flair, etc. will still be freely available to copy or reuse with the same Creative Commons license as before. The source code for the software used in the web site and apps, which is all written by the CoughDrop development team and which is what makes CoughDrop tick, will be changing its licensing scheme going forward.

The CoughDrop app has, up to now, been released as an open-source codebase. This will be changing, as going forward Forbes has decided to stop releasing updates with an open-source license. Because they own the copyright, they are free to do this for ongoing updates, but the previously-open-sourced code can't be un-open-sourced, so it will still be available online as-is. As before, anyone would be free to run their own instance of that code, or to leverage pieces of it in different projects, according to the open source license. In the following weeks, we will be transitioning the GitHub repository over to the OpenAAC account but, again, it will not include future updates. The apps in the app stores and the website will all continue be updated and supported by the combined CoughDrop-Forbes team, and users will not notice any change in service as part of this change, but it will affect the software development community.

The OpenAAC project will continue to run independently of any commercial AAC offering. What OpenAAC will do with the CoughDrop codebase going forward remains to be determined, but OpenAAC's existing projects will continue, the same as before. I don't want OpenAAC's hosting of an AAC codebase to become an impediment to other vendors working with OpenAAC, but having a place to proof-of-concept new standards has a lot of potential, so expect to see a more official decision on that soon-ish. OpenAAC is a passion project, and we have some interesting work going on there that I hope to keep developing, but there may be some slight growing pains as we work to more completely independent-ize some things over there. In the end, this will be a good thing for everyone.

AAC in the Cloud, the annual online AAC conference that CoughDrop has hosted since 2017, will continue to operate as a free online conference, with CEU credits available. You may see some new moderators this year, but that and everything else should remain at least as awesome as before.

Brian Whitmer & Scot Wahlquist with other conference attendees in front of the CoughDrop booth.

All in all, we on the CoughDrop team remain just as passionate as ever about supporting AAC users and the teams around them. We all have personal connections with AAC users and feel proud to have helped encourage a more inclusive, communicator-led mindset around AAC implementation. We don't see that changing anytime soon and will continue to advocate for the individuals who use AAC in so many important and unique ways. If you have any questions about this acquisition or anything else CoughDrop-related, please don't hesitate to reach out to us. Onward and upward!

See the official announcement on Forbes AAC acquisition of CoughDrop here.

Clayton Smeltz

CoughDrop Founder