An online toolbox of symbols enabling communication for all, without the use of language
- Global Symbols CIC
- Global Symbols CIC
- Country of Implementation
- United Kingdom
- Western Europe
- Start Year
- First published
“Global Symbols helps ensure that the right to communicate is not denied to those without a voice.” David Banes and E. A. Draffan, Directors of Global Symbols CIC
An NGO founded in 2017 and based in Milton Keynes, United Kingdom, Global Symbols provides sets of graphic symbols (such as a clock, food, body, house, etc.) and online tools to connect them for communication. It supports anyone with a communication disability, in any language, all for free and open source. A key feature enables users to create their own symbols. In 2021 more than 5,000 people used Global Symbols, with an increasingly global outreach.
Symbols used to support augmentative and alternative forms of communication are often misrepresented and do not fit in multicultural contexts.
Solution, Innovation and Impact
Global Symbols includes four key features: (1) Symbol Sets, (2) Board Builder, (3) Symbol Creator, and (4) training. The open-source store consists of multilingual graphic symbols to support individuals with complex communication needs. Symbol Sets are available on the website for free, reflect various languages and cultures, and mainly cover daily objects, commonly used adjectives, and words. The Board Builder allows users to add their own symbols to create customizable charts or boards. There are readily available templates, or a user can create their own from scratch. With the Symbol Creator, users can create new symbols by importing images and adding or resizing various shapes. Together with UNICEF, Global Symbols has developed a detailed free and open-licensed training programme on using and creating new symbols. The two organizations are currently working together in Croatia, Montenegro, and Serbia, and have started work in Bulgaria and Turkey. In 2021 Global Symbols also began a project in the slums outside Nairobi, Kenya. Since the website`s launch in 2017, site visitors increased from 66 in the first month to some 5,000 users per month in 2021.
Funding, Outlook and Transferability
Global Systems has a low-cost funding model. The cost to sustain the project is about €3,000 and the development budget is €20,000 per year, both covered through sponsorships. In the next three years Global Systems aims to add a minimum of three symbol sets from different languages each year, to develop technology integration to facilitate the use of the symbols in a more diverse range of products, and to establish a sponsorship programme to build sustainable income.