Brian Whitmer is a software developer, entrepreneur, and co-founder of Instructure. He was trying to find a suitable communication system for his daughter with Rett Syndrome. However, due to his background in usability, he was frustrated with “poor design decisions and old technology”. He wanted to create something better so he collaborated with over 30 assistive technology specialists, occupational therapists, and speech and language pathologists.
In 2014, Brian founded CoughDrop, a simple cloud-based augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) app. The idea behind the AAC app is that communication is for everyone and the goal is to empower people to make their voices heard. Through using open-source technology, the communicator can have access to different levels of vocabulary sets to use and progress over time.
What makes CoughDrop unique?
The company believes in open standards and open access so that it is free for users to build individualized solutions that work for them. CoughDrop allows communicators to:
- personalize their communication using multiple devices;
- work offline and have backup in the smart cloud making it easy to switch devices;
- empower teams to collaborate and modify boards without having to take away the device;
- use the built-in reports and goal-setting tools to track progress over time; and
- choose the best pricing option (either a one-time purchase or pay month-to-month).
CoughDrop understands that learning to use AAC is like learning a new language and it takes support and modeling from the people around us. The company aims to help communicators, families, friends, practitioners, and school staff to be more confident in the use of AAC to promote and develop better communication. “Just because someone can’t speak, doesn’t mean they don’t deserve to be heard.”
It is inspiring for me to read about a parent who saw a need and successfully created an AAC app to allow his daughter and others with disabilities to communicate. Brian’s ideas are innovative and he worked well as a team with specialists to develop CoughDrop AAC. Brian has the passion to let others know that “every voice should be heard”.
2 responses to “Brian Whitmer – Founder of CoughDrop AAC App”
In the case where passion meets ability, Brian Whitmer is a good role model for would-be entrepreneurs. Doing a little additional research on Brian following this posting, I see that his honorable projects are aplenty, a serial innovator of sorts. I recognize and appreciate that he places priorities on saving the user money. My nephew has a condition similar to Rett syndrome and the associated expenses with caring for him are extremely high. It took him about five years (and intensive therapy) to become fairly mobile. Now at the age of seven, he continues to remain nonverbal and there is no end to SLP therapy for the foreseeable future. I also respect how he emphasizes familial communication. Though only two years older than he, my nephew’s sister is undoubtedly a rock and has been one of the few constants in his life.
First of all, I think it is so wonderful that the founder of CoughDrop (Brian) started this venture because of his daughter with Rett Syndrome. Secondly, and as mentioned in the video, CoughDrop uses a could to back everything up in case of device damage, malfunction, or loss. Third, it allows teachers, therapists, and parents to model, coordinate, and monitor progress with the child. Lastly, CoughDrop provides users with a 2-month free trial and the $6/month cost remains reasonable and affordable for many families. Brian is a good role model for would-be entrepreneurs as he has lived experience and provides this product and associated monthly fee with the end-user in mind. All in all, Brian has developed a strong business model as he understands the AAC market and consumer needs, and is providing a useful product at a low monthly cost.