ACES 2023 will be July 16-28, 2023 on the campus of Temple University in Philadelphia, PA.

Participant applications are closed! We are no longer accepting applications.

ACES 2023

ACES stands for Augmentative Communication Empowerment and Supports.

ACES is a program for young adult users (18+ years) of Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) located on the main campus of Temple University in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

ACES is a two-week intensive program followed by monthly meetups and ongoing social media engagement. This summer, ACES will run from July 16 – July 28, 2023.

New for 2023!

ACES 2023 will benefit from the insights and leadership of our AAC User Consultants. These full-time AAC users are working to make ACES 2023 powerful and life-changing. We are working together to design an exciting experience.


The program goals of ACES include:

  • Improve effective communication by AAC users.
  • Improve computer access by AAC users with current technology.
  • Improve communication skills to secure competitive employment.
  • Empower AAC users to control their lives using a person-centered decision-making framework.
  • Increase the capacity of non-AAC users to engage and include AAC users in all activities authentically.
  • Support the families and friends of AAC users to encourage self-determination by the AAC users.
  • Build a community of AAC users to support each other and share experiences.
  • Equip AAC users with a strategy to communicate with health professionals and provide informed consent or refusal.


Each ACES participant…

  • Is a young adult or adult who uses AAC.
    • May be concentrating on a “transition” such as school to work, home to community, etc.
  • Is currently using or has the potential to use a speech-generating device.
    • Devices (Tobii- Dynavox, PRC, Tablet-based, Phone-based, etc.)
    • Access methods (direct select, eye gaze, switches, etc.)
    • Communicative intent is demonstrated or assumed
  • Is able to participate in a full day of learning and work.
  • Might have a variety of educational or medical diagnoses


  • The cost for the AAC user participant and accompanying support person is $3500. This fee includes tuition, room, and board.
  • There are a variety of possible funding sources.
    • Public funding may be possible through the Extended School Year (ESY) program, OVR, and Waiver funding.  The ACES program must meet a participant’s school, work, or waiver service plan objectives.
    • We work with out-of-state participants to secure adequate funding.
    • Some participants pay tuition privately.
  • TechOWL at the Institute on Disabilities works to secure donations for limited scholarships. 


On the main campus of Temple University in Philadelphia. Participants (and a support person, if necessary) can stay in a dorm for the two-weeks program.

Made Possible by…

ACES is funded by tuition.

We work with participants, families, and teams to establish a funding source as part of the acceptance process.

Extended School Year and Waiver funding are sometimes used for tuition. Some participants pay privately.

TechOWL at the Institute on Disabilities will work with people to find funding.


Developed initially in 1990 by Diane N. Bryen, Ph.D., ACES has adapted over the past 30 years while staying true to the mission of improved communication and empowerment in an inclusive community.

Today, we acknowledge emerging technologies and other changes in communication access for all.

We also understand the need for AAC Users to help plan the ACES experience. Therefore, we have contracted full-time AAC users to consult on this program.

Next Steps

If you want to apply (even if your payment arrangement is uncertain), please complete the online application by March 31, 2023.

Our entrance interviews may be in-person or via video conference.


The application deadline has passed. Please consider applying for ACES 2025.

ACES Support

  • If necessary for access and/or functional needs, each ACES participant brings an additional support person. One person per participant enjoys housing with the participant in accessible on-campus housing at Temple University.
  • Other family members will need to secure a nearby room and board.
  • ACES staff and volunteers maintain an adequate presence for the safety and security of everyone.

ACES Staff


  • Administrative Coordinator
  • Licensed Speech-Language Pathologists
  • Access Specialist (i.e., Occupational or Physical Therapist)
  • Assistive Technology Specialists
  • Computer Access Educators


  • AAC User Consultants
  • Empowerment Facilitators – various


  • University students for credit, clinical, or work experience
  • Professionals for continuing education or additional experience
  • Volunteers from the community
  • Intern Orientation

Typical ACES Day

This ACES will be structured a bit differently from past years. Each participant will create their class schedule from a catalog of offerings before the beginning of ACES 2023. Each participant will create a schedule to meet their personal goals by the requirements of their funding source, if appropriate. A preliminary ACES 2023 catalog will be available by March 1, 2023. Offerings will include:

  • Independent study with a communication coach (speech-language pathologist)
  • Group communication coaching (speech-language pathologist)
  • Individual device troubleshooting sessions
  • Interactive Empowerment Seminars
  • Classes – computer, resume building, yoga, etc.
  • Fun – swimming, movies, etc.

The participants’ day starts at 8 am and ends at 9 pm.

  • Breakfast together
    • Gather in a common space
    • Dietary considerations honored
    • Packaged, prepared, and fresh foods
  • Morning Sessions
    • Dependent on the individualized schedule
  • Lunch at a nearby restaurant or food truck
  • Afternoon Sessions
    • Dependent on the individualized schedule
  • Dinner together
    • Sometimes at nearby restaurants
    • Sometimes at the dorm in a common area
  • Down Time & Fun
    • Variety of activities

Any parents, friends, and family members who are not actively supporting an ACES participant are encouraged to participate in separate and specially designed activities and presentations.

Communication Coaching

Our group communication coaching is led by speech-language pathologists and supported by graduate students in speech-language pathology. While every ACES is different, here are some previous communication topics.

  • Functional Operation of AAC
    • AAC Backups
  • Social Engagement with AAC
    • AAC and social media
    • Small talk
  • Strategic Use of AAC
    • Getting Someone’s Attention
    • Arguing
    • Joking
    • Advocating
    • Role-Playing
  • Linguistic Considerations
    • Vocabulary Sets
    • Adult & Intimacy Vocabulary
  • Emotional Expression
    • Friends and Relationships
  • Distance Communication for AAC Users
    • Adapted Phones
    • Text Messaging

Computer Catalog

While every ACES is different, here are some previous computer access topics:

  • Social Media
  • Safety and Privacy Issues
  • Emoticons
  • Google
  • YouTube
  • Playing on the computer (Spotify, Pandora, TV, etc..)
  • Jobs
  • Individual deep dives

Empowerment Catalog

While every ACES is different, here are some previous empowerment topics:

  • Talking to Doctors
  • Following Your Dreams
  • Being a Leader
  • Healthy Relationships
  • Personal Emergency Preparedness
  • Self Defense
  • Directing Personal Care
  • Interviewing
  • Money Management
  • Know Your Rights
  • Canine Companions
  • Independent Living
  • Getting a Job
  • Transition Planning
  • Myths Related to Benefits and Work


While every ACES is different, here are some previous fun activities –

  • Pool Party
  • Scavenger Hunt
  • Adaptive Yoga
  • Visit Philadelphia
  • Museum Tour
  • Movies nearby
  • Nearby Pub / Sports Bar
  • Music

Family Topics

While every ACES is different, here are some previous parent and family topics –

  • Supporting Letting Go (advice for transitioning your children to adulthood)
  • Daring to Dream – Parent’s Role
  • Making Assistive Technology from Common Materials
  • Troubleshooting Service Issues
  • Estate and Trust Planning
  • Self-Care
  • Parent Roundtable
  • AAC Backup Planning and Support

Important Terms and Conditions

Wheelchair Warranties

The company who supplied or manufactured your wheelchair may have rules about who can service it. Doing repairs yourself or taking your wheelchair to an alternative provider (such as a bike shop) could void this warranty.

Release of Liability and Terms

The information provided by TechOWL and our partners is for educational purposes. It does not replace the advice or requirements of your wheelchair manufacturer. Please check your owner’s manual or contact the manufacturer if you have any questions.

By participating in a wheelchair repair workshop or other TechOWL offerings, you agree to the following conditions.

“I (“The Recipient”) agree to indemnify and hold harmless the Institute on Disabilities, Temple University, the Office of Vocational Rehabilitation, the Department of Labor and Industry, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, and any and all partners, employees, agents or representatives of same, from damages to property or injuries (including death) to myself, and/or any other person, and any other losses, damages, expenses, claims, demands, suits, and actions by any party against the Institute on Disabilities, Temple University, the Office of Vocational Rehabilitation, the Department of Labor and Industry, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, and any and all partners, employees, agents or representatives of the same, in connection with an item donated to me or assistance provided to me from the CreATe Together and/or the Reused Equipment Exchange Program. I understand I am receiving items or services in “as is” condition and not sold or supported by the manufacturer.”