UNICEF-based technology project supporting young people with communication impairments
- Giving Voice to Every Child
- Country of Implementation
- Start Year
- First published
“She is so happy when she is able to say something, when she expresses any emotion.” Ivana, whose daughter started talking at the age of 4 after using Cboard for six months
UNICEF initiated and funded the Giving Voice to Every Child project in south-east Europe, supporting young children with communication impairments. The project utilizes Cboard, a free Augmentative and Alternative Communication web application for children and adults with speech and language impairments, and integrates a global symbols database with over 20,000 symbols. It also empowers professionals and parents for effective intervention. The programme, which has been launched in Bulgaria, Croatia, Montenegro, North Macedonia, and Serbia, has directly benefited more than 3,000 children since 2019.
Some children face communication challenges due to impairments or trauma, requiring timely intervention for positive outcomes. Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) systems have high potential to support young children with communication difficulties. However, AAC systems, especially in local languages, are not often available or are even unknown.
Solution, Innovation and Impact
Cboard is a free, open-source communication tool with over 20,000 symbols, available on Android, iOS, and web browsers in 40+ languages designed to assist persons with communication impairments. UNICEF has been supporting Cboard since 2017. Building on Cboard, UNICEF launched a new programme called Giving Voice to Every Child in 2019. To promote its usage the organization financed training programmes for professionals, using both in-person and online methods. Children with communication difficulties are identified and supported in early interventions centres, preschools, the resource centres supporting inclusive education, primary schools, through parents of children with disabilities, and through day-care centres for children with disabilities. The effectiveness of the Cboard was measured with questionnaires and has shown a remarkable degree of achievement at all levels of children’s competency, self-esteem, and adaptability. Originating in Croatia, Montenegro, and Serbia, the programme expanded to Bulgaria and North Macedonia in 2021–2022. Over 1,000 professionals across five countries – including preschool teachers, speech and language therapists, psychologists, occupational therapists, and special educators – have participated in comprehensive training to identify and support young children with speech, language, and communication difficulties. Currently, more than 3,000 young people in south-east Europe are using Cboard.
Funding, Outlook and Transferability
UNICEF estimates that approximately 840,000 children in Europe and Central Asia could benefit from the implementation of AAC solutions such as Cboard. UNICEF funded the initial development and customization in the region. The existing model to regionalize Cboard can easily be replicated in other countries and languages, based on the availability of partners and funding. (Awardee 2024)