TalkBox: a DIY communication board case study

Foad Hamidi (Lassonde School of Engineering, York University, Toronto, Canada)
Melanie Baljko (Lassonde School of Engineering, York University, Toronto, Canada)
Toni Kunic (Lassonde School of Engineering, York University, Toronto, Canada)
Ray Feraday (Toronto Catholic District School Board, Toronto, Canada)

Journal of Assistive Technologies

ISSN: 1754-9450

Publication date: 21 December 2015



The purpose of this paper is to present TalkBox, an affordable and open-source communication board for users with communication or speech disorders. Making and tinkering methods are combined with community engagement and participatory design to create a democratic and accessible approach to assistive technology design.


The authors employed a community-engaged participatory design methodology where we incorporated input from stakeholders into the design of the interface. Close collaboration with our community partner allowed us to make informed decisions on different aspects of the design from sourcing of the material to testing the prototype.


Through describing TalkBox, the paper presents a concrete example of how assistive technology can be designed and deployed more democratically, how collaborations between academia and community partners can be established, and how the design reflects different aspects of the methodology used.


This paper explores the question of how can open-source technology and making methods contribute to the development of more affordable and inclusive designs through a concrete example.



Hamidi, F., Baljko, M., Kunic, T. and Feraday, R. (2015), "TalkBox: a DIY communication board case study", Journal of Assistive Technologies, Vol. 9 No. 4, pp. 187-198.

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Copyright © 2015, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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