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Tuesday, February 25, 2014

How TapToTalk Helps Transit Drivers and First Responders

Regina Mayolo is a Technical Assistance Specialist at the West Virginia Assistive Technology System, a part of the Center for Excellence in Disabilities at West Virginia University. Here is her story about an unusual use of TapToTalk that helps first responders and public transit drivers communicate with those who may have communication limitations or for whom English is not their primary language.

TapToTalk was brought to our attention while working on a communication system for public transit drivers and adult riders with autism. The app allowed us to create a picture communication system (“album”) to provide necessary information to drivers and express the desires of riders. Examples of this would be driver-to-rider, “pull the cord to stop,” or from rider-to-driver, “please lower the bus.”

We quickly realized that this communication system could work with other service providers, especially first responders. In partnership with the Kanawha Putnam Emergency Planning Committee, a series of “albums” was developed to help police, fire and EMS providers communicate with victims, witnesses or other individuals who may have communication issues, including Limited English Proficiency. In addition to a basic intake “album” that is used by all responders, each professional group has an “album” that is specific to their needs.

The TapToTalk “albums” for first responders are designed to “start the conversation.” Each provides an avenue of communication until more appropriate methods can be employed, such as locating an interpreter, other professional, or family member.

Another benefit of TapToTalk is that the app is affordable. In our case, a grant from the West Virginia Division of Public Transit paid for the “album” design software (TapToTalk Designer). Because the TapToTalk player apps are free and on a variety of devices, the “albums” created by the Partnerships in Assistive Technologies (PATHS, Inc.), in cooperation with the West Virginia Assistive Technology System, can be used at no cost by volunteer fire departments, and community-based police and medical responders on limited budgets. We have also been able to easily add to the “album” questions, revise them, and add languages, thanks to the Designer component of TapToTalk.

Future plans include adding “albums” for intake workers in domestic violence shelters and replicating the existing “albums” in additional languages. TapToTalk has proven to be an efficient and cost-effective mechanism for providing essential communication tools for service providers.

For more information:
West Virginia Assistive Technology System (WVATS)
Partnerships in AssistiveTechnology (PATHS)

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