AAC is used to consult any mode of communique that can be utilized in region of speech or writing;those equipment deliver the capability to speak to people who can’t speak or write. The truth is that India is a few 20 years at the back of the West in the adoption of AAC technology solutions, in line withAjit Narayanan, the inventor of Avaz, an app for iPads and Android pills that offers a totally reasonably-priced alternative to highly-priced AAC gadgets. The Chennai born, IIT-Madras alumnus become workingin a technology agency within the US, however this changed after he volunteered with Vidya Sagar, anagency that works with youngsters with cerebral palsy and special wishes.
Narayanan began a enterprise referred to as Invention Labs and labored with Vidya Sagar to investigateAAC generation. with the aid of 2010, the enterprise changed into ready to release Avaz, which placeditself as a miles inexpensive alternative to existing solutions. “at the time, we have been looking at Avaz as a hardware answer, so we created our personal tablet,” Narayanan remembers. in keeping witha newspaper report from the time, similar devices from international producers had been priced at Rs.three lakh. The Avaz tool value best a tenth of that, and Narayanan tells devices 360 that it mayadditionally be programmed with more than one languages.
The Avaz app
soon after the Avaz hardware turned into launched, the iPad got here along. released in September 2010, the iPad supplied a completely unique opportunity for Avaz, as it delivered most of the traits that Narayanan needed for the Avaz device right into a suited shape aspect, at customer pricing. the following step turned into to remodel the software program to paintings as an iOS app, and reposition Avaz as a consequence. This came about speedy, and the app turned into an early fulfillment, thanks in no small element, Narayanan says, to plenty of aid from Apple, which time and again featured the app in itspinnacle lists and at the the front web page of the App keep.
developed with a variety of input from Vidya Sagar, the app replaces phrases with photographs, so thatyoungsters with disabilities that prevent them from learning languages can nonetheless talk with theirhouseholds and caregivers. “For some human beings with autism, for example, they can’t definitely draw close the which means of words due to the fact language is just too random. in case you think about it,it is only a random collection of sounds that we’ve determined imply something,” he says. “even as thepics on the other hand are plenty clearer and less complicated to apprehend. after which there are others who is probably able to kind out words, but due to motor disabilities, that is a challenge. Forthese types of human beings, Avaz offers a manner for them to speak extra successfully with theirfamilies.”
basically, the app offers the customers (kids with gaining knowledge of disabilities) with a series ofphotographs that may be keyed in to talk. on the iPad, it is smooth to shop a massive range of images, and the mission that Avaz faces is to organise this in a way that is certainly going to be useful to thepeople who depend on it to communicate. The app supports a couple of language, each Indian andeuropean, and users can also upload their personal ‘phrases‘ – for instance, a photo of your grandmother, along with the phrase grandma.
Dr. Balan praises Avaz for making voice systems more on hand in India, and added that the utility has made it less complicated to educate special college students a diffusion of subjects. Avaz, and otherapps love it, aren’t a magic bullet – a demo video we watched of a toddler the usage of Avaz suggests that it nevertheless takes a little effort and time to place sentences together and to discover the next phrase– however Dr. Balan says that if autism is detected early, then apps consisting of this can make a massiveimpact on a toddler‘s existence.
Invention Labs’ state-of-the-art software, FreeSpeech, which was released handiest currently, is going a step further than Avaz. “The concept behind FreeSpeech is to create a semantic map, to help humans tostudy languages,” explains Narayanan. essentially, he clarifies, while Avaz lets the person pick out thephrases they need to say, FreeSpeech is a learning tool to educate the rules of grammar. “for instance,in case you need to mention ‘I want an apple’, you want to understand the relationship among ‘I’, ‘need‘, and ‘an apple’. that is what you’re learning with FreeSpeech,” he explains, “The app presentsphrases like building blocks, and you may pass them round, and it predicts the phrases and prompts you to increase your sentences. you could gather the phrases right into a grammatically accurate sentence and helps teach abstract standards like tenses.”
The idea is that the two apps will paintings together – FreeSpeech is a tool that parents and instructorscan use to help their kids examine the language, while Avaz is an essential device that the can be used tospeak. “Avaz is like your glasses, you need it with you all of the time,” Narayanan provides.
5 years later
it’s been 5 years considering the fact that Avaz first launched in India. in this time, it’s been used byround 30,000 human beings global, with a five,000 phrase vocabulary, and it comes with a figureeducation segment so one can help dad and mom and teachers to educate in flip the children whodepend upon the app.
Localised for 6 Western languages and 7 Indian languages, Avaz has been utilized by colleges in new yorkand Chicago, and it is the main AAC utility in France and Denmark. In India even though, its increase hasin large part been via personal interventions, and it is only now being examined in a pilot programacross 200 colleges in Tamil Nadu, for which the deployment has no longer but began.
Avaz is also getting used in many unique schools and also in speech therapy institutes. The testimonials from actual users communicate for themselves – thanks to the app. an in depth case have a look atsupplied by means of the enterprise showed us some of the impact, however comments from dad and mom and children is similarly direct. youngsters who struggled to talk with their households are capable of hold simple conversations with strangers. dad and mom say the app has helped their youngsters tocommunicate what food they want to eat, what clothes they want to put on. but not like the us or France or Denmark, there are still no massive authorities run programmes for AAC technology in India.
“cognizance is a huge issue in India,” says Narayanan. “This isn’t always a few magic bullet that parentscan simply use with none heritage either, it is supposed to be utilized by speech therapists, and in India, there are round 2,000 speech therapists. that’s much less than you’ll discover in San Francisco alone.”
“within the US, it’s mandatory by law that colleges should provide all centers required by means ofunique children a good way to preserve up with the other students,” he provides.
price is every other factor, according to Dr. Balan. Apple’s iPads, and comparable Android drugs, arefantastically area of interest merchandise in India, in contrast to cellular phones. however smartphonesdon’t virtually meet the desires that Avaz’s users have, in keeping with Narayanan. “The tool has to bewith the man or woman the use of Avaz,” he says, “and that is a hassle due to the fact even thoughtelephones are huge, they’ll normally be personal gadgets of the mother and father. They want to replycalls and ship messages and do many other things from their telephones, so the phones can’t be left with the children all the time.”
just as humans with bad eyesight require their glasses always in order to see, folks who require Avaz alsowant to have get entry to to the device always so that it will talk. aside from that, the smaller display screen size of smartphones makes them much less beneficial for Avaz, and it may be difficult for human beings with motor disabilities to press small icons.
“The Avaz app calls for you to shop for an iPad, which remains high priced, and the app itselfadditionally is not very cheap so for many people the rate remains a hurdle,” says Dr Balan. The Avaz app is available on iOS for Rs. 7,000; however, Avaz for Android is even more steeply-priced, at Rs. 10,000, for the reason that charge is an instantaneous dollar conversion from the us fee of $one hundred fifty. it’s to be had for half of that on both app shops proper now, way to a 50 percentage cut price for Autism Month (April) however on the other hand, this is not the sort of aspect that an averageclient is selecting up.
but it truly is also the factor, in a manner. “commonly, AAC generation is something that a speech therapist will teach a infant a way to use, however we do not have sufficient speech therapists in India,” says Narayanan. this is why Avaz has added capabilities with a purpose to teach parents and teacherson a way to use the app, how to measure the development of a baby the use of the app, and manualthem through a plan of coaching. The concept even though is that a skilled expert have to be the onlyguiding the use of the utility. it’s why Avaz can be working with the schools at some stage in itsdeliberate pilot in Tamil Nadu to train and work with the teachers in unique colleges to properly use Avaz.
The Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment wants to deliver every toddler with a disability get admission to to the correct education. Avaz and different apps in this category should help with thisvision.
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Tags: AAC, Ajit Narayanan, opportunity and Augmentative communique, Autism, Avaz, Cerebral Palsy,education, FreeSpeech, Language, special needs, Speech, Vidya Sagar