University of Delaware's Center for Disabilities Studies and Software Developer Adapt Video Conferencing App for Students with Complex Communication Needs

February 4, 2021

A screenshot of the Co-VidSpeak app for children with complex communication needs
A screenshot of the Co-VidSpeak app for children with complex communication needs

Remote instruction poses significant obstacles for children with complex communication needs, including difficulty accessing Zoom, Google Classroom and other popular speech- and text-based communication apps.

To give educators an alternative, the University of Delaware's Center for Disabilities Studies (CDS) became a beta tester for Co-VidSpeak, a video conferencing app originally designed for intubated hospital patients. Co-VidSpeak combines video with preset icons, words and phrases displayed around both conversation partners' screens, called "boards." Users can communicate by indicating the icons, words or phrases with their eye gaze.

CDS worked with the Co-VidSpeak developer, Brian Whitmer, to adapt the app for educational use. The Center trained about 30 Delaware educators, including speech-language pathologists, on using Co-VidSpeak in remote instruction. They suggested to Whitmer features that would be useful to students and teachers, such as auditory feedback and the ability to share and load pre-programed boards.

Co-VidSpeak finished beta testing and is available at covidspeak.org. For resources on using Co-VidSpeak in educational settings, contact CDS's Megan Conway at [email protected].