Cboard digital application giving voice to every child
The localized versions of Cboard digital application are developed in Macedonian and Albanian language to make communication easier for children with communication difficulties
Skopje, 12.05.2022: UNICEF and partners launched localized versions of Cboard, a free digital application and assistive technology tool developed to support children facing communication difficulties, speech and language impairments to communicate and express their needs, feelings and thoughts.
“Communication is at the heart of every human interaction. Children who experience communication challenges can struggle to make themselves understood which can hinder their day-to-day interactions, development, education and social inclusion. With Cboard, children can have a voice, an opportunity to talk, learn and express themselves and a chance to demonstrate what they can do,” said Patrizia DiGiovanni, UNICEF Representative. ”We encourage parents and teachers to use the tool to help remove barriers that prevent children from taking up their rightful place in the wider community.”
“I am especially pleased to be here today to present this digital tool that will be of great importance for promoting the inclusion of children with disabilities from an early age,” said Jovanka Trencevska, the Minister of Labour and Social Policy. “The Ministry of Labor and Social Policy will continue with its commitment to advancing the child protection system to enable all children, regardless of their ability, environment, language, education and parental background, to receive comprehensive support to develop their full potential.”
Assistive technologies designed for alternative and augmentative communication can help children develop their abilities to understand and express words and concepts, opening up opportunities to improve developmental outcomes and learning, promoting inclusion and participation in education and the community.
Cboard is one such assistive technology solution for alternative and augmentative communication. It is a free and open-source application, developed with support from UNICEF’s Innovation Fund. It can be used online or through an android mobile or tablet, to support children and adults who are facing a wide range of speech and language impairments and to facilitate their communication using symbols, pictures and text-to-speech functionalities.
Following Cboard’s successful piloting in three countries in the region – Croatia, Montenegro and Serbia – UNICEF partnered with the organization ‘Open the Windows’ and the Faculty of Electrical Engineering and Information Technology (FEIT) in Skopje, to localize Cboard in Macedonian and Albanian language, and develop a Macedonian female natural voice (Suze) that reads text-to-speech.
“It was our great honour to be a part of this initiative. Together with our students, we are overwhelmed with joy to have been able to contribute our know-how and work on a system that will improve the lives of people in need. The Speech Group here at FEIT, UKIM, has a rich tradition and expertise in speech technology, specifically speech synthesis and recognition. We also nurture a fruitful collaboration with “Open the Windows” that has helped our students work on many assistive technology projects. It is through this collaboration that our students created Govorko – a smartphone application for AAC and led to our participation in the localization of Cboard and the creation of the new TTS voice Suze,” said prof. Branislav Gerazov from the Faculty of Electrical Engineering and Information Technology (FEIT).
This process built onto UNICEF’s experiences in the wider region, the expertise of a team of professors from Zagreb University, but also complemented the efforts of UNDP who developed Kiko and Hana - the first natural voices for speech synthesis in Macedonian and Albanian language.
“We are working for already 17 years to make the assistive technology accessible for every child and every person with disability in our society. The tools that we are launching today are the basis of the digital alternative and augmentative communication, which furthermore will provide an opportunity for hundreds of children and adults with speech impairment express their communication needs," said Kristijan Lazarev, the project coordinator from CSO “Open the Windows”.
Cboard is a communicator that can be used in many settings, starting from the child’s family and preschool, early intervention centers, schools, resource centers and speech therapy services and can primarily help the early childhood development and early inclusion of children with disabilities, from preschool education onwards.
So far, over 170 professionals including inclusive teams from ten kindergartens, pre-school teachers, speech and language therapists, psychologists, members of the International Classification of Functionalities Committees and special educators have been trained on how to apply alternative and augmentative communication, including Cboard, in the work with children facing communication difficulties, speech and language impairments. Professionals who tested the application in the pilot phase, reported that the children responded particularly well to the text-to-speech functionality, have improved their vocabulary and were able to start expressing their needs.
C-board is available in over 30 languages and accesses the Global symbols database of over 20,000 symbols, which now includes core vocabulary symbol sets for Macedonian and Albanian. The symbol sets can also be exported from Cboard and printed to support communication work with children using paper-based resources.
The application can be downloaded for free from Google Play on Android phones or can be accessed directly at www.cboard.io .
UNICEF promotes the rights and wellbeing of every child, in everything we do. Together with our partners, we work in 190 countries and territories to translate that commitment into practical action, focusing special effort on reaching the most vulnerable and excluded children, to the benefit of all children, everywhere.
For more information about UNICEF and its work for children, visit www.unicef.mk.