Background of project
I’m a practicing nurse in the UK and I’ve previously worked on a ward with people who’d had a stroke and found it difficult to talk. I’ve also worked with people with locked in syndrome who can only blink or use small movements.
As you can imagine communication can be difficult for these people. However, there’s a common method used in which a person can use an alphabet board to signal through the letters to create words and therefore communicate.
This communication idea is simple however it relies on both parties knowing the alphabet board well and both understanding how to navigate it. It’s also difficult as a person can only often give 1 signal so the system has to take this into account.
How the system works
The nurse, or person initiating the system, first goes through the alphabet vowels.
Using one signal, such as blinking, the user signals the vowel they want to select.
The nurse then states the vowel again but with the consonants that follow. For example:
if the user blinked at the letter A, then nurse would then say A B C D awaiting a signal for the letter selected. This would be the first letter of the word created.
Heres how the alphabet is layed out using this system:
Once a letter has been selected, the process is started again to eventually make a word.
Making the system digital
Having used this method with patients in real life, it’s actually hard to use to start with. First you have to confidently know the alphabet without thinking “what’s next” which is hard when the person in front of you is trying to talk. Also, you have to write down every single letter selected otherwise you risk forgetting what was selected and then not knowing what the person is trying to say.
With the hype created web app, the device takes away this human error and the nurse only has to swipe through the letters and tap when they see a signal. Furthermore, the app stores the last letter selected in a progress bar and once a word is created, the nurse can tap the bar and the device reads out the word.
The app works best on a iPad but also works in safari and other internet browsers on a PC/Mac. It currently doesn’t work on smaller devices but will work on the larger screened iPhones.
I’ve named the app ‘Start Convo’ and it’s perfect to start those small conversations for those people who find it hard to communicate.
Please have a go by visiting www.startconvo.co.uk
I’m hoping to have a version that automatically cycles through the letters so the nurse doesn’t have to. Then they would hopefully only have to wait for the signal and tap the screen.
I’m also looking at ways in which the user themselves can trigger what letter they select using a bluetooth button or something similar.
I would also like to include word predictions and the option to save previous word + sentences in future versions.
I would love to hear what you all think about the project and feel free to share this with anyone that could potentially use it. Having seen and worked stroke survivors myself, cheap, affordable and easy to use communication apps can be really be useful to reduce stress and anxiety when trying to express your wants and wishes.