The Accessibility Chair of the Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya is developing the tool for mobile learning and communication devices -augmentative and alternative- called Easy Communicator (ECO). The aim of this project is to provide a tool that improves the possibilities of communication and understanding, both in the most personal and academic environment, of people with language difficulties, learning, the relationship with their environment, etc. The target groups are children with autism spectrum disorders, adolescents with cerebral palsy, and grandparents with cognitive impairments.
The development of the project focuses on two aspects: the programming of the computer application and the definition of the communication elements it uses. The app is being developed for Android tablets. There are numerous similar applications currently on this platform. The main features that distinguish ECO from existing ones are the conception of user interaction as a game, the ability to generate and share specific personalized content in a flexible way, and the fact that it is an open and free platform. Users are both parents, teachers or caregivers as well as children, students or grandparents. The definition, structuring, import or export of the content is carried out with the same application, in a private section for parents or teachers; facilitating its use both at home and in the school or rehabilitation center.
ECO considers the combination of photographs, pictograms, videos, texts and voices as elements of communication. Therefore, the messages are offered in complementary alternative formats. For example, to indicate the concept of school, you can choose a custom combination of the user’s school photograph, the generic pictogram, the video of the word school in sign language, the word read, and the text. There are collections of pictograms, voices and videos, some for free use, such as those of ARASAAC, and others owned. The application allows both to incorporate these sources and structure them internally, as well as to use a small set of their own development. The design of the communication elements themselves has a double objective: the formulation of a proposal of guidelines that allows to systematize the design and choice of pictograms, voices or texts; and the creation of a resource nursery that other users can use and expand freely. L’aplicació està disponible en 3 idiomes, seleccionables des de la interfície d’usuari: català, castellà i anglès.
The Easy Communicator project is being carried out by UPC students and professors with the service-learning methodology. Students of the degree in Computer Engineering from the Polytechnic School of Engineering of Vilanova i la Geltrú (EPSEVG) take part in the programming of the applications. While students of the degree of Industrial Design and Product Development of the EPSEVG are working on the definition and creation of the communication elements. Professors from the departments of Telematics Engineering (ENTEL) and Languages and Computer Systems (LSI) carry out tutoring and development tasks. Finally, entities such as the Garraf Psychopedagogical Advice and Guidance Team, the Marta Mata School in El Vendrell, the TEGAR Special Work Center in Vilanova i la Geltrú and the Sant Antoni Abat de Vilñanova Private Foundation and Geltrú have contributed user experience and validation of results throughout project development.