Invent a Speech Aid to Help Malia Communicate

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Invent a Speech Aid to Help Malia Communicate

Undoubtedly, one of the best parts of the maker movement is the ability to create customized solutions that are as unique as the people who they help. This is especially true of accessibility devices that help improve the quality of life for people who have disabilities.

Meet Malia, an 11-year-old with cerebral palsy. She is all smiles, very bright, and understands everything people say to her, but her speech is unclear to most people outside her family.

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To help, we’ve launched a mission on Maker Share asking for inventions that can translate her speech.

“There is such a need for children like our sweet daughter, Malia, who have much to share and express but the average listener will not get it,” says Donna, Malia’s mother. Donna imagines a device that could understand the sounds Malia produces and map them to the correct words and phrases; she calls it “the Articulator.”

To help you develop a device, we’ve created 42 recordings with associated transcripts of Malia speaking. While our obvious expectations for this mission center around some sort of linguistic device, it’s sometimes unexpected surprises that demonstrate true innovation. For example, the first entry to this mission was by Greem Feld. His proposal of an emoji based app that would allow Malia to build pictographic sentences is based on his previous work. First by creating a robot that communicates with emoji, and then using that to write an emoji lexicon of sorts. That book, written entirely in emoji, was tested with speech therapists and found to help with speech issues.

So what will you make?

Head over to Maker Share, create an account if you haven’t already, and start tinkering! Malia will be testing entries, and her and her family will be choosing their favorite projects. Winners will be featured in an upcoming edition of Make: magazine.

You can find details on submission deadlines and entry requirements at Maker Share.

Discuss this article with the rest of the community on our Discord server!

Sophia is the managing editor of the Make: blog. When she’s not greasing editorial gears, she likes to run, ride, climb, and lift things, and make lo-tech goods like zines, desserts, and altered clothing. @sophiuhcamille

View more articles by Sophia Smith


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