An Update to Lets Talk

Many months ago, Waseem and I worked to create a solution to help people with disability communicate. Our intention was to simply use technology to help people who could not speak and who could not hear. The result was a simple app called Lets Talk. Lets Talk had a simple setup where a speech-impaired person types out whatever they want to say and the phone will say it for them. Meanwhile, a hearing-impaired person can give their phone to the person they are talking to. That person will then talk into the phone, which will then display whatever was said for the benefit of the hearing-impaired user.

We built and released this app to the Google Play store a few months back and the results have been very positive. It has been downloaded a few hundred times and we have received positive feedback. Thats when we decided to take the project forward and improve upon it.

We made many visits over weekends to Enable India, an NGO based in Bangalore that works closely with the differently-abled community. We had discussions with the staff as well as the students there to better understand their communication needs and how we could improve our app to help them better. We found out that we needed to make the communication even simpler. Many of the students there were not comfortable with typing. In some cases this was because of muscle issues where they could not tap the small keys. In other cases it was because of lack of education and simply not knowing how to express themselves. That is why we decided to turn to photos.

It is said that photos speak a thousand words and with the proliferation of emojis in todays communication, we felt that this was an effective strategy to try out. A photo/emoji is something that can be universally understood irrespective of a person’s mother tongue or languages they are comfortable with. Photos are also larger in size and can be modified to be even larger, so a person with a muscle deficiency would find it much easier to use than typing. However, our biggest challenge became what photos to offer. Each person has their different needs as far as what they want to express and to when. We cannot cater to every need at this point. What we needed to do was to find something that was common and very important to all the students and we realized that that was emotions. The ability to convey an emotion is a basic ability of every human yet for a differently-abled person it is extremely challenging. Due to the nature of their disabilities, they find it difficult to convey even the most simple emotions. And this is where we decided to help.

As part of the new update to Lets Talk, we are offering a simple list of emotions, mixed with some other important needs such as asking for water and requesting to go to the washroom. With this basic set we hope that our users can better communicate their critical needs to those around them and by doing so, make everyone’s life easier. We are starting off with a simple set. We hope that this set will expand over time to include more items that a person can use to communicate.

Lets Talk is not a full communication service. Its a work in progress and it is our hope that it eventually evolves into a high quality solution that helps the differently-abled communicate. This in turn will also help those around them; from parents and friends to teachers and colleagues. We hope you like the update and find it useful. You can find the app by visiting the link at the start of this post. Any feedback will be much appreciated.

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