People living with MND help develop Google’s revolutionary accessibility app
A free Android app has been launched to help people with non-standard speech to communicate more easily with others and gain independence.
Project Relate is the newest accessibility product to come from Google as part of their focus on working with people with disabilities in the UK to find solutions to some of the issues they face. The app may be helpful for people living with MND with affected speech, as it helps the user to continue to use their voice and be understood by those around them.
People with non-standard speech can teach the app to understand their unique speech patterns, and communicate using three features: Listen, which transcribes their speech into text; Repeat, which repeats what is said in a clear voice; and Assistant, which connects with Google Assistant to help people get things done.
Yvonne Johnson, a working mother whose speech has become slurred due to MND, partnered with Google to develop Project Relate. She said:
“Communication is so important, especially for people whose voice has changed. With Project Relate’s Repeat feature, I feel better understood – not just by unfamiliar listeners but also my husband – it’s the difference between a meaningful conversation and someone just nodding. I hope other people start using it.”
This work was borne out of the MND Association’s NextGen Think Tank, which brings together the brightest minds in technology companies to improve quality of life for people living with MND.
Nick Goldup, Director of Care Improvement at the MND Association said:
“Thanks to advancements in technology and the work of our NextGen Think Tank, there are lots of alternative and augmentative communication (AAC) options for people living with MND. However, there are far fewer tools for people whose speech has become affected, but who still want to communicate verbally. Google Relate will be a fantastic tool to support people with MND who are impacted in this way. We are delighted that people with MND have played such an important role in testing Project Relate, which will help us get closer to fulfilling our ambition that every day with MND counts.”
Richard Cave, Consultant Speech and Language Therapist, said:
“Our voice is integral to our identity. For many reasons it can feel difficult transitioning from talking to using a device to communicate, which is why we want to help people to keep talking and be understood for as long as possible. Google Relate will help people with nonstandard speech to feel understood for longer, even as the disease starts to impact their speech. Relate will also help them to keep using personal digital assistants like Google Assistant in daily life – to check the weather, get directions, play music, or control their environment such as turning on the lights. We’re delighted to partner with the MND Association who are so passionate about improving quality of life for people living with MND.”
English speaking adults in the UK can sign up to be an early user of the Android app.