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Two people with ideas, a globe and therapist working with a boy in Arabic

E.A. Draffan

Ideas from experts supporting Multicultural Symbol Use for AAC.

Over the summer the Global Symbols team has been attending conferences and visiting several different countries both for pleasure and work! Now seemed a good moment to get back on track and collate some ideas from experts in the international field of AAC relating to the use of pictographic symbols.

The UNICEF ECARO teams and colleagues in several Eastern Euopean countries put together a recent report that highlighted the importance of "a voice for every child through open-sourse solutions and resources when supporting complex communication needs with inclusive innovations". These ideas come about not just because of the potential cost of AAC strategies and technologies, but also because of the need for personalisation and customisation.

Both personalisation and customaisation have great potential in an open licenced multicultural AAC world as they can allow individuals to adapt and make new symbols for use with electronic devices and even speed symbol use with improved prediction methods via technological innovations using machine learning, image recognition and natural language processing. Some of these ideas are available in AAC papers presented at the 2022 ICCHP / AAATE conference held in Lecco.

personalisation and customisation

Hopefully in the future it will be easier for users to have symbols that can be increasingly more culturally and socially nuanced whilst being adapted to suit differnt settings more easily than is possible at the moment.

Global Symbols is collaborating with the EasyTextAI to see whether we can adapt symbols to fit the more complex medical vocabularies that appear at times such as the COVID-19 pandemic. Once a period of crowd sourcing easy text alternatives from volunteers has occurred, hopefully the simplification results will provide understandable words or labels so that symbols can be generated more easily from open licenced symbol sets such as Mulberry Symbols - heart tablets.

heart tablets

During the summer with the support of international AAC experts and UNICEF Global symbols has also been involved in publicising some "Open licensed AAC Solutions and Systems within a Collaborative Model" (download PDF) as an academic paper and a freely available AAC Implementation guide.

Next month we are lucky enough to be presenting some of our ideas to members of Communication Therapy International on our voting system for symbol acceptance by users, their families and all those involved in the development of localised symbols. 'AAC Symbols for Everyone, Everywhere'

Finally as part of International AAC Awareness months Carole Zangari has 7 Things That Every AAC Specialist Should Be Doing including: "Those who specialize in AAC should belong to and engage with national and/or international groups that elevate the role of AAC in society".

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