I am so excited to share my latest project with you all as I’ve been working on it for a few months now and it been really difficult at times to not tweet or post information about it. So here I am, taking a big deep breath and finally revealing it to the world.
So as a lot of you already know, I am the creator of The Chardie Easy Read Blood Test App. Now according to the latest statistics, over 300 of you who own iPhones, iPods or iPads have downloaded the app onto your devices. For this, I thank you all! And I haven’t forgot about the easy read apps; I have some amazing updates to share in the new year!
So my new app isn’t an easy read app. In fact its completely different to anything I’ve done or attempted to do before.
The story of the app starts in back in September of 2015. Having made a move to London for a new job, I found myself working with people with neuro-disability rather than learning disability. Furthermore, I was now working with people who, because of a brain injury, couldn’t do some of the things they were able to do before and in some cases, things that the body wouldn’t allow the brain to control anymore. Personally I had never expected to work in this type of environment but sitting here writing this now makes me glad that I found this career path.
But one thing that frustrates me more than anything about any place I’ve worked is the total lack of use of computer technology. I truly believe that in 2015, we should not be writing things down with pen and paper and should be fully utilising the amazing technology around us. Now, this isn’t a statement saying that every place I’ve worked isn’t good enough for not using computer technology but I feel we could be achieving so much more if we used it to its fully potential.
So instead of sitting here moaning about it, I’ve set out a personal challenge to use my skills with technology and start to create things that will benefit peoples lives from patients, family members and of course, the staff.
So this is my first attempt to combat a current pen and paper exercise and digitalise it to make it more efficient. Finding something to work on didn’t actually take me that long. Working in neuro-disability has made me realise that communication can sometimes be a massive barrier and these barriers almost mirror what I’ve seen in learning disability services. One of the systems used is something that is referred to as an alphabet chart.
here's how it works:
Here is the classic AEIOU alphabet chart. The aim of using this chart is to allow the person communicating to select a letter by only given two yes or select signals. This can range from a blink of a eye, nod of the head or even a verbal sound. Once you have established what the persons yes or select signal looks like, its now time to start to use the alphabet chart.
As you can see by how this chart is laid out, the vowels of the alphabet appear as the first letter of each of the 5 lines. These vowels are what are used first to navigate through the lines alphabet chart. So to do this,as the the person using the system, you will need to say ‘A, E, I, O, U’. As you go through each letter, you will need to look out for a signal for yes or select from the person trying to communicate. Once the person signals your at the right vowel line, you basically say the letters that follow on that vowel line. So for example, if the person communicating signals on ‘A’, they are basically saying “the letter I want to select is on the ‘A’ vowel line. You then have to go through the A vowel line and wait for the next signal. This second signal will be the letter which forms part of the word they are trying to spell. So the second signal on this occasion could be for the letter ‘A’ ‘B’ ‘C’ or ‘D’. And selecting a letter is a simple as that.
So this system works and it works really well. However, it takes a lot of practice and it is very slow. Also, having used it myself, it can be very frustrating for both parties if long words and sentences have to be spelt. Imagine using this system, going through the letters and having to write down every letter each time it is selected. Then repeating it over and over again. It can actually be very exhausting (speaking from personal experience!).
A common scenario
A patient who uses this system to communicate goes into another hospital. The hospital staff need to communication with the patient and they know they use an alphabet chart. But what is the alphabet chart? how do you use it? communication needs to happen now and fast, how long does it take to learn how to use this system? So in a real world situation, staff aren’t going to have the time to learn it, especially in busy environments such as A and E. So the only form of accurate communication this patient has all of a sudden is made almost useless. Surely there must be a way in which this system can follow a patient and be easy to use wherever they go?
I think technology could easily solve this situation.
So my personal challenge I set myself was to convert the system currently be used and digitalise it.
My objective were:
It must be easy to use
It must be easy to understand
It must take away the need for pen and paper.
It must be cheap.
It must not take away to much of the human interaction.
It must be able to be picked up by anyone and be able to be used very quickly.
So after a few hours (days and weeks!) of designing and coding, I have created a working app and here for the first time seen anywhere is a demo of it.
I’m still testing the app and improving it before release. More information on how the app actually works will be available when it can be downloaded from the app store. The app should be completely finished and available to everyone using a iPhone or iPad in early January. To make it accessable to as many people as possible, I can reveal today that the app will be free and hopefully some of you will find it to be a helpful little tool to have on your phone. There will be also other platforms supported in the following weeks.
For now though, I would love to hear back from you all about your first impressions of the app and maybe how you think it will help you in your workplace. Maybe you have a family member who would really benefit from you having this on your phone. If you would like to volunteer to test the app and get a copy of it sooner or want to give me feedback, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.