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Powerful communications tool for students with disabilities developed at UTSC

Tina Doyle, Director of AccessAbility Services at UTSC, and student Thusi Thuraisamy helped develop a communications pack called College Life that works for the text-to-speech app TalkRocket Go. (Photo by Ken Jones)

A communications tool developed at the University of Toronto Scarborough will help give a voice to university and college students around the world who have communication needs.

The tool is called College Life and works as an add-on communications pack for the text-to-speech app called TalkRocket Go, made by U of T startup MyVoice for use on iPhones, iPads and iPods. The app gives people with communication disorders a voice by allowing them to create synthesized speech by tapping words and pictures on a screen. (Read more about MyVoice)

“We saw a demonstration of the app and proposed creating a pack exclusively for post-secondary students,” says Tina Doyle, director of AccessAbility Services at UTSC. “Our focus is on helping students manage barriers and facilitate independence by getting them the tools they need to succeed in university, so this was a perfect fit.”

Thusi Thuraisamy, a fourth-year psychology and human biology student at UTSC, collected common words and phrases used by students on post-secondary campuses and identified corresponding photos to match.

“As a student I see how much of a positive impact this technology can have, so it was a privilege to be part of its development,” she says. 

Since the pack will be marketed internationally a big challenge was in creating a common language to distinguish student services on post-secondary campuses. For example health and wellness centres go by different names on different campuses, notes Doyle.

“The great thing about the app is that it’s customizable so the user can make changes as they see fit,” she says.

© University of Toronto Scarborough