Why Did Apple Pull An App Designed To Help Autistic Children Speak?
June 27, 2012

Why Did Apple Pull An App Designed To Help Autistic Children Speak?

Michael Harper for redOrbit.com

This past April, a company which makes a talking tablet for speech-disabled children filed a patent lawsuit against another company which makes a similar iPad app for a fraction of the cost. In response to this suit, Apple removed the Speak for Yourself app from the App store three weeks ago. Now, according to The Register, Apple could welcome the app back into their store if the speech therapists which wrote the app win the suit.

Though the company was hit with the suit months ago, no judgment has yet been passed. With Apple´s rejection of the App, many parents of these children became worried that they may have to pay for the more expensive option rather than use the popular iPad.

Just how much more expensive?

Prentke Romich, who filed the suit, sells a device called the Minspeak which allows children to press a series of buttons which can create sentences using a technology called augmented and alternative communication (ACC.)

Romich´s Minspeak starts at $2,595 but, according to The Register, can often cost more than $7,000.

While not exactly cheap, the Speak for Yourself app starts at $299. Even if a parent buys the most expensive iPad brand new, they´re still saving themselves a large amount of money. The Minspeak is also larger and bulkier when compared to the iPad, making the Speak for Yourself app an even better option for parents.

Apple opened up their WWDC conference this year with a heart-warming video highlighting how the iPad is used to help those with disabilities. In this video, they showed how autistic children are able to learn and interact, thanks to apps specially designed for the iPad.

As such, the company also announced new features to iOS 6 which are aimed at helping educators of all kinds work with their pupils.

So why was the app removed?

According to The Register, Apple has been found to remove apps whenever they are engaged in a legal battle in order to “protect the users” from breaking the law. Apple told the Register there was no significance in their timing of the removal, it had simply taken three months to decide to remove it.

The Prentke Romich Company, (PRC) as well as Semantic Compaction (owner of the patents in question) have said they discovered “numerous instances of infringement” in the Speak for Yourself app. The PRC uses a technology they call “Unity” to power their Minspeak devices, which they say Speak for Yourself is using without their permission.

Started by two speech therapists, the Speak for Yourself founders have created a petition over at change.org to reverse Apple´s decision to pull the app from their store. At the time of this writing, the petition has 4,200 signatures of the desired 5,000. The Speak for Yourself team is taking to Facebook and Twitter to ask people to sign their petition as well.

While Apple has yet to give an “official” explanation of their decision, The Register seems to be referring to an “unofficial” briefing from some unnamed Apple executives. As such, if the founders of Speak for Yourself prove triumphant in court, the app could come back to Apple´s store. The free, “lite” version of the app is still available for download.