January 16, 2015
A few years back, around 2009, a small group of investors from the Indian Institute of Technology, Madras banded together to bring augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) to India. They looked at various options and applications of this technology, but didn’t have any big success until they started working with special needs schools and children. The result was an iOS powered tablet Avaz, which would migrate to Android later as well, that was built to revolutionize the AAC industry in India.
Ajit Narayanan, the founder of Avaz, wanted to change the lives of children with autism and other learning and speaking disabilities. That is, Narayanan has unlocked a way for them to develop a new sort of language using pictures and audio.
The Avaz system is picture-based, and it allows children to represent words with pictures and extend the reach of their vocabulary. Sometimes children with special needs lack the basic foundations of vocal communications, and Avaz wants to help them develop their own form of pseudo-language.
“Some families are uncertain about these benefits and sometimes wait until their child enters school before taking action,” says Narayanan. “But research has proven that children who begin an intervention program right away show the most progress and receive the greatest benefits. Starting early helps reduce behavioral difficulties, and the entire family benefits.”
For the most part Avaz has had tremendous adoption amongst special educators and therapists working with autistic children. And by 2012 Avaz had become an integral part of special education and therapy all over India. It also grew outside of the country and made headway in Asia, Europe, and most recently America.
Narayanan was actually crowned MIT TR Innovator of the Year, a recognition given to those looking at important problems in a transformative way. To date, it’s the first product in the disability category to ever be awarded the MIT TR35 award. The future is definitely looking bright for the Avaz team as they continue their expansion efforts.
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