Monika Adamson Lindqvist , pp. 66. COM/School of Computing, 2011.
A vulnerable group in society is people with ASD (autism spectrum disorders) or autism. This group seems to increase, mainly due to genetic factors but also environmental problems. Medical research has accelerated in the U.S. and Europe. The biggest problem for people with disabilities is the inability to communicate, both verbally and socially. Parallel communication is growing strongly, a technique that can help these people much, if only there were an adaptation to the needs.
There are already technical communication aids developed for people with autism. But they do not seem to fit the target group's communication needs well enough. These aids are designed to handle a superficial communication and people with autism do not understand this type of communication at all. People with ASD would rather appreciate the deeper relationships that can support them on important issues, such as to clarify the context for them are hard to understand. E.g. "inside" and "beyond" could tell that there are a number of houses behind them closer to the houses. They need a different type of support and this support must be provided by close caregivers. Closely support by caregivers seems to be essential for successful development. In other words, they do not have the extensive list of contacts that are in their communication tool today.
In my theses, I look primarily at the core needs behind the communication of people with autism. But I also present a design proposal in the form of some sketches on the basis of these needs. The reason for focusing on the analysis is that the majority of existing technical communication aids never seems to have questioned the basis for the decisions shaping the design, i.e. the real needs of the people with ASD. Too often wrong design decisions seem to be made mainly due to an incorrect analysis. Several functions ought to coincide in a single tool that can support the people with ASD to talk, think clearer thoughts, to reflect, formulate an opinion and dream. I would like them to reach deeper thoughts than was possible so far. The features are not new but the combination is. I count to seven features which I consider to be crucial for my result: “Emphasized transfer”, “transparency”, “structure à la Talking Mats”, “imaging”, “digital camera”, “the real meeting”, and “caregivers as important role models”. The communicators should be geographically close to each other and carry one’s own portable technical communication aids, their “BeAKKta”, the name of this design proposal.
My result identifies needs of disabled people in their communication, and gives suggestions on how to respond to those needs by presenting different sketches from an analysis. The sketches show up a new design for this communication tool, both in terms of form and function. Lovisa, my daughter and her communication problem is the origin of the trials and she is also the one who gave me both insights and inspiration.
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