Straight Talking Group (STG)

stg2The Straight Talking Group is an expert user group of individuals using AAC. The group meet fortnightly in the University of Dundee’s School of Computing, working with researchers to evaluate and develop AAC technology and supporting the teaching activities in the School.

Dundee has a long history of AAC research and some of the members of STG have been involved in a number of projects over many years, such as PAL, TALK & Scriptalker. Some of the research has been developed into commercial AAC systems through our industrial collaborators.

The group see their challenge in supporting technology transfer, e.g. the research into personal storytelling using AAC. They believe that developers need to talk more to user groups such as STG.



Sylvia Grant
Hello, I’m Sylvia Grant, I’ve got cerebral palsy, which means I’m unable to walk or speak, but my disability hasn’t held me back from doing things that I wanted to do. I live in Glenrothes in Fife in my own little bungalow. I  enjoy music, going to the cinema, socialising with family and friends and clothes shopping and I especially enjoy going out with friends for meals.

I now use an iPad to communicate with, but I have used a few different  methods and few different types of speech aids to communicate with people during my lifetime. My association with Dundee University goes back about 25 years. I started going to the university to help a team of researchers, who were developing a stored phrase communication computer system to make it easier and quicker for people like me who can’t speak to have conversations with people and I really enjoyed helping them, so when I heard about the Straight Talking group, I was really excited to be a part of it.

I like when we get to try out things and have discussions about issues that we might have as disabled people. We all join in the discussions and we all have a lot to say sometimes. We also speak to dental and medical students about ourselves and about what it’s like going to a doctor or a dentist or when you are in the hospital, when you have communication difficulties. I feel it’s very important for us to speak to the students to give them some insight into how it feels when you can’t communicate by speaking,  because they are going to be helping some people like us in their professional lives.  I think that we learn from each other in the group too, through talking about our experiences in life as disabled  people.  We have a good laugh together sometimes as well.

Portrait Alan McGregor

Alan McGregor
Hi my name is Alan McGregor and I have cerebral palsy.  This affects the amount of control I have over all my muscles, including those of speech. Im an ex-Paralympic swimmer, I swam for the UK team for 14 years. I competed in three Paralympic games: Barcelona, Atlanta and Sydney, and won four bronze medals and one silver medal for team UK. I hung my competitive trunks up 10 years ago, now I swim for fitness and fun.Along with swimming my other hobbies are cycling, horse riding, going for short walks, going to see my favourite bands live in concert and making my own music. I have been lucky enough to produce three albums.

I give talks in the UK and around the world about being non-speaking and the troubles we face in every day life. I also help to create new software for us non-speakers. My dream is that one day we will be able to engage and keep up with everyday conversations just like everyone else.

Portrait Karen McBrideKaren McBride
Hi, I’m Karen McBride, a member of the Straight Talking Group. I have been a part of the group since its inception.

I live at home with my mum and my two dogs. Twice a week I do voluntary work at Capability Scotland. In my spare time I like to go to the theatre, the cinema, eating out in restaurants, and  – of course – shopping!

Portrait Darryal StarkDarryal Stark
Hello, I’m Darryal.

I like to:

  • read books,
  • listen to my music, and
  • to go on holiday.

Portrait Georgie Williams

Georgie Williams
I’m Georgie, and I have been a member of the Straight Talking Group since 2012.

I am 20 years old and a student at the National Star College in Cheltenham. I I love skiing, shopping, and catching up with friends.

Eoghan McKenzie
Hi there, I’m Eoghan and I’m the newest member of the group. I’m currently in my final year at school. Like some of the other members of the group, I’ve got Cerebral Palsy but we’re all affected in different ways. I’m dystonic quadriplegic so I’ve got no use of my arms and legs and the muscles which hold my head up aren’t too good either. I’m the only member of the group who uses eye gaze to control my AAC device.

I live at home in Fife with my mum and dad and I’ve got an older sister.

My favourite subjects are history, music and media studies and as a result I love going to the cinema and watching period dramas on TV – I’m a massive Downton Abbey fan! I also love visiting historical sites – particularly if there’s a royal connection.


Newell, A. F., Booth, L. and Beattie, W. (1991). Predictive text entry with PAL and children with learning difficulties. British Journal of Educational Technology, 22: 23–40. doi:10.1111/j.1467-8535.1991.tb00049.x

Todman, J. (2000). Rate and quality of conversations using a text-storage AAC system: Single-case training study. AAC Augmentative and Alternative Communication, pp 164-179.

Dye, R., Alm, N., Arnott, J. L., Harper, G. and Morrison, A. I. (1998). A script-based AAC system for transactional interaction. Natural Language Engineering, 4, pp 57-71.