Global Symbols is a place to discover and publish Alternative and Augmentative Communication (AAC) symbol sets.
Many people use symbols as a communication aid to breakdown language barriers and they can also provide support for those with complex communication needs. AAC "is a range of strategies and tools to help people who struggle with speech. These may be simple letter or picture boards or sophisticated computer-based systems. AAC helps someone to communicate as effectively as possible, in as many situations as possible." (Communication Matters - what is AAC?)
For Symbol Users, Friends, Family and Carers
Global Symbols has a huge collection of high-quality symbols you can use for communication. Search our symbols, download and use them.
With our free Board Builder and Symbol Creator, you can quickly create boards of symbols to help communication. Create boards for day-to-day activities, special occasions, special topics such as games or mealtimes etc. The templates are easy to use for making information sheets or any curtomised designs you want to create.
For Symbol Set Creators
Get your symbols online quickly, where they can be discovered and used by anyone.
Global Symbols is a free publishing platform designed especially for symbol sets. You'll spend less time managing a complex website, so you can concentrate more on your symbols and your community.
Visitors can browse and search your symbols in a rich catalogue.
Multi-language symbol labels.
Upload draft symbols, publish later.
Review and voting tools to get feedback from your community.
An API for your symbol set.
Automatic inclusion in Board Builder and several other online symbol tools.
Global Symbols aims to link and create freely available AAC symbol sets with other linguistically and culturally localised symbol sets to provide world wide access to appropriate pictographic based communication that can be used on any communication application. We have worked with several app developers who were supported by the UNICEF Innovation Fund, in particular with Cboard and Jellow.
A Churchill Fellowship COVID-19 Funded grant gave us the chance to update and expand our range of templates on Board Builder with improvements to our Symbol Creator and links to more symbols to make information sheets and communication boards for those in caring situations - some can be seen in our featured board sets.
The symbol sets and other resources collected on this site are intended for:
languages that do not have localised symbols to support speech, language and literacy in health care, education and social communication situations.
all AAC users, their families and carers as well as professionals in the field interested in using symbols.
supporting low levels of literacy, learning disabilities or specific learning difficulties, where symbols can aid reading and writing skills.
helping with social interaction difficulties where symbols can act as prompts.
Symbols may also work in a similar way for those who acquire speech and language difficulties due to stroke and brain injury.
If you want to create your own symbol set and share it with others please register to upload the symbols.
Where it has been felt that there is no need to generate new symbols for certain concepts or the symbol sets have a small number of symbols, you may find the concepts you want in the ARASAAC symbol set. This set was used as the basis of the Tawasol symbol set thanks to collaboration with Centro Aragonés de Recursos para la Educación Inclusiva (CAREI). ARASAAC symbols are offered under a CC (BY-NC-SA) Creative Commons licence but you may notice that some other symbol sets come with slightly different licences. When sharing symbols with others, please abide by the licence under which they are provided and acknowledge the original owners of the symbol set.
The Global Symbols team came about as a result of work on The Arabic Symbol Dictionary and Tawasol Symbols developed in 2016, thanks to the Electronics and Computer Science Accessibility Team at the University of Southampton, the Qatar National Research Fund and all the participants in Doha, Mada – Qatar Assistive Technology Center. and Hamad Medical Corporation.
David Banes is an independent consultant with over 30 years experience of supporting access and inclusion through technology. He is a Board Member at DATEurope. David is also former CEO of Mada (Qatar Assistive Technology Center) and works extensively across the world supporting the implementation of assistive technologies. He has a particular interest in supporting the needs of refugees and those in Low and Medium income countries and the potential of emerging technologies.
E.A. Draffan trained as a Speech and Language Therapist working with those who have complex communication needs, specialising in the use of Assistive Technology and digital accessibility. Over the years she has worked in clinics, schools, further and higher education setting up an assistive technology centre, working with a UK national assistive technology hub, before becoming a Senior Research Fellow at the University of Southampton. Research has included collaboration in the development of resources for AAC users in Qatar, development of accessible digital technologies, MOOCs and other elearning projects.
Charlie Danger is an experienced and creative occupational therapist and assistive technology professional, passionate about the role of technology in enabling individuals to participate in fulfilling and meaningful lives. He has worked as an assistive technology practitioner since 1999 in many diverse settings including statutory and higher education, healthcare, the workplace, and in the community. He co-established a very early SEND assistive technology outreach service in 2001 and managed a project to create the first national AT/AAC clinical service in the Middle East and more recently contributed to the Global Symbols online training with advice and guidance around hands-on use of AAC and AT whilst also acting as a consultant for several UK and international charities.
Russell Newman has managed his own successful company Newman Consulting for over 17 years providing proactive guidance, planning and implementation for a range of SMEs across the country. Global Symbols became part of his protfolio having worked with the University of Southampton ECS accessibility team over many years. He not only designs and maintains the Global Symbols multilingual website, but has also set up the voting system for symbol set reviews and acceptance, whilst taking on further development and updating of Board Builder and Symbol Creator.
Steve Lee is a seasoned developer consultant with wide expertise including in accessibility, assistive technology, music technology, open development, modern web, mobile and cloud technologies. His personal mission is to enhance technology experiences for all, through development, training, guidance and support in accessibility, cloud, standards and collaborative development. He has launched several open accessibility innovation community sites designed to encourage end users and developers to collaborate. In 2018 he took on the copyright of the open licenced Mulberry Symbols that have been used in our AI / AAC pilot projects.
Chaohai Ding has been working on several research projects related to Web and Internet Science. His PhD and particular interests in digital accessibility have led to work on AI for Good as part of the Alan Turing AI and Inclusion project integration of machine learning with semantic embedding and image recognition to aid the classification of AAC symbols. More recently he has been using generative AI to trial the creation of AAC symbols in the style of open licence symbol sets as part of a University of Southampton Web Science Institute collaborative project.
We are grateful to The OpenMoji Project, whose symbols we have used on some pages of this website, the support provided by the University of Southampton and students who have helped with projects, such as prototype versions of Board Builder and Symbol Creator.