a girl and medical worker look at a tablet

Symbols-based app opens paths to communication

Imagine being hungry or needing to use the restroom, but having no way to communicate those needs. When a person has trouble speaking – often because of a physical disability or other health issue – participating in conversations with family members, friends, teachers, medical staff or neighbors can be difficult.

That’s why Humanity & Inclusion’s rehabilitation project in Vietnam helped to translate and adapt Talk Tablet Pro, a symbols-based Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) app, for Vietnamese people with disabilities to use. Talk Tablet VN, which launched in November, helps break down barriers for people with speech difficulties.

Talk Tablet VN displays a grid of boxes containing pictures and symbols that represent different words and phrases. The user can choose what to say – such as, “let’s go to eat” or “I would like to go to the park” – by tapping the corresponding symbols. Then the tablet speaks the word or phrase.

After the app launched in November, therapists and special educators completed a two-day training. The app – which can be downloaded from the Google’s Vietnam store – will be used across the country to help children with Cerebral Palsy or autism and adults with stroke or traumatic brain injury to communicate.

“We know that some of the people who need the most help simply don’t have the money for such devices,” explains Didier Demey, HI’s country manager for Vietnam operations. “Money should never be a barrier, so our donors have made the app and related tablets available for free to those who will benefit the most from it.”

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HI is distributing 100 tablets and 500 promotional codes for people with disabilities – mostly children – to download the app. It is estimated that approximately 40,000 children in Vietnam could benefit from the app over time.

The idea for Talk Tablet VN was born from a project, funded in part by USAID, which is focused on enhancing and developing digital rehabilitation tools for people in Vietnam. Talk Tablet VN is the first of three AAC apps the team is working on to help Vietnamese people with complex communication needs. The two additional apps are in development and expected to launch early next year.