PROJECT FIRST

Overview

We are proud to be part of the exciting innovative FIRST Project which is a new interactive tool that will assist people with autism.

We are developing a tool called Open Book that will assist people with autism spectrum disorders adapt written documents into a format that is easier for them to read and understand. It will empower people with autism to read documents with confidence and autonomy. As a result, their social inclusion will be increased as they gain better access to educational, vocational, cultural and social opportunities in Europe.

The partner organisations of this project represent four member countries of the Council of Europe:

Project Coordinator – Prof. Ruslan Mitkov, University of Wolverhampton (United Kingdom)

Industrial Partner – Pranay Puri, iWeb Technologies Ltd. (United Kingdom) and Nikolai Pavlov, Kodar OOD (Bulgaria)

Academic Partners – Universidad de Jaen (Spain), Universidad de Alicante (Spain)

NGO – Autisme Europe a.i.s.bl. (Belgium)

Clinical Partners – Central and North West London NHS Foundation Trust (United Kingdom) and Deletrea, s.I.p. (Spain)

Charity – Parallel World Sdruzhenie (Bulgaria)

Key Issues

Key challenges we are attempting to address through Open Book are challenges around:
Comprehending speech and writing;
Interpreting figurative / non-literal language;
Understanding complex instructions;
Deriving the meaning or gist of written documents.
These difficulties present a significant barrier to the participation and inclusion of people with autism in all aspects of society, including education, employment, health care and social activities.

This software aims to reduce these barriers by providing a tool that empowers people with autism to read a broad range of documents without assistance. This tool will help to reduce the risk of social exclusion for people with autism.

As autism encompasses a spectrum of symptoms that vary in severity among individuals, the software must be personalisable, enabling users to adapt documents to match their own reading and comprehension abilities.

Technical approach

The software is being developed by a team of computer programmers who specialise in language technology and professionals in the field of autism.

The team will work with a large sample of people who have autism to research and evaluate how the software can effectively assist people with a range of reading and comprehension abilities.

The software technology will utilise language technology to adapt the language used in written documents for people with autism by reducing complexity, removing ambiguity and improving readability.

This process includes:

1. Replacement of

  • long complex sentences with several short, simple sentences;
  • long / technical words with short, simple words;
  • non-literal language with literal translations.

2. Provision of definitions for ambiguous words and phrases;

3. Addition of

  • images;
  • concise summaries
  • document navigation tools for long documents.

Expected achievements / impact

The software developed will primarily assist people with autism to access to written information, thereby increasing their quality of life and social inclusion.

The software will also assist clinicians, support workers, family members of people with autism and teachers, to provide more efficient assistance to people with autism to help them understand written information. The software can also be helpful for people with low literacy or learning difficulties, as well as people who are learning a foreign language and the elderly.

Priority / priority component

The objective of this project is to enhance social inclusion for people with Autism Spectrum Disorders by creating a computer software program that adapts documents into a format that is easier for them to read and understand.

This software product will address the European Commission’s priority need for “Research on ICT for smart and personalised inclusion addressing advanced solutions to improve social and economic inclusion by means of inclusive design, accessible, personalisable and human-ICT interfaces, social computing and advanced solutions for learning and skills acquisition as well as Brain-Neural Computer Interfaces (BNCI)”*.

* European Commission, Seventh Framework Programme, Information and Communication Technologies Work Programme 2011-2012, Challenge 5: ICT for Health, Ageing well, Inclusion and Governance, Objective ICT-2011.5.5: ICT for smart and personalised inclusion.

Please be advised that project FIRST is now finished. If you are interested to know how OpenBook can help your organisation feel free to contact us by calling 0845 890 4984 or email enquiries@iwebtech.co.uk.