Natarajan, who also works with students at Vasantham, a special school, said the app was born out of a need to facilitate easy communication. “My mother-inlaw runs this special school, which caters to children with intellectual disability and was started in 1989. Totally, we have 145 children, out of which 65 are residential students. My wife, who is a speech therapist, and I were looking up for some apps to help communicate with the children apart from the traditional means like story board or pictures on notebooks. The apps we found were mostly suited to western needs, which are different from the requirements of parents here. The few apps from India were good but too complex and required commercial licence to use. So, we wanted to develop an app for Indian parents and caregivers, which will be easy to use. That’s how Easy Communication came into existence,” said the Android app developer.
Natarajan, who will present this app at the showcase, which is in association with Tata Trust, explained that the user interface can easily be mastered by the parents or caregivers. “Once you open the app, there are six photos denoting different actions, indicating hunger, thirst, etc. The parent/ caregiver can take pictures of the child performing this action and upload it. If the child is hungry, it can point to the corresponding picture and communicate the need. We also have an audio recording option, the care taker or kid can record the action in their own voice and this audio message would be played when kids press the action picture. We have a feature called ‘Alert’, which sends an SMS alert or call to the parent/caregiver in case they are away,” he said.
The interface, said Natarajan, can easily be mastered by anyone. “More than the children, it is important to teach the caregivers/ parents, who are basically from the middle-class and not too adept at using the smartphone. For this reason, we kept the app simple and found that it could be mastered within an hour. Caregivers liked the app because they can continue training the children even at home. The app is designed to support low-end devices as we do not want affordability to become a hindrance. This is an open source and free app,” he said. The app is already available on Google Play and Natarajan is currently working on fine-tuning the performance.