OTTAA Project: Accessible Communication for Children with Disabilities
The UNICEF Innovation Fund is proud to see a portfolio member OTTAA graduate. They’ve come a long way – from numerous product iterations to deep diving into understanding their ecosystem better and strengthening their business model. They’re now ready to collaborate at a larger scale – as they find new pathways to work with partners, investors, and the open source community.
A few months before we received the UNICEF Innovation Fund investment, the world was turning into a completely different place, challenging every possible certainty we and any expert around the world had about almost any topic.
These were scary times to be a first-time founder; fortunately, we had an ambitious 12-month plan with the necessary resources to achieve the milestones ahead of us.
“Calm seas don’t make good sailors”, thanks for helping us sail these very rough seas.
DEPLOYING AI: "AWESOME IMPACT"
OTTAA Project is the first intelligent communication platform for people with speech impairment. Using a powerful AI algorithm and pictogram-based communication, we help children with disabilities to communicate better and faster, substantially improving their lifestyle & supporting them in order to regain autonomy.
OTTAA ACCESSIBILITY SUITE
Due to motor impairments, not everyone can use tablets or computers to their full functionality. With the investment and support from UNICEF Innovation Fund, we developed the OTTAA Accessibility Suite, a set of devices to ensure universal access, mainly facilitating the use of the platform for people with motor impairment, furthering autonomy of users and increasing social interactions, inclusion & autonomy.
The OTTAA Accessibility suite, which was designed to maximize usability while minimizing costs, includes 3 devices that can adapt to different skills of users:
Sip & Puff
The Sip & Puff Switch is designed for people who do not have voluntary motor control of their limbs, or severe spasticity. This device is controlled by sipping and puffing. The user can fully control the OTTAA Project Platform with our virtual automatic screen scanning.
This device also allows the full control of any PC, laptop or smartphone by replacing the left and right clicks of a conventional mouse with a sip and puff.
Scroll & Press
The Scroll and Press is a device that allows the user to execute three commands; the action of scrolling with the orange big wheel in the left control triggers a down command & up command, allowing the user to select the desired option with the yellow button. The scroll and press can be used with our virtual automatic screen scanning, or by direct order of the user. This device can also be used with any smartphone or PC.
WORM flexible multiple keypad consists of 3 freely moving buttons on a flexible holder. This accessibility device is designed to adapt in the most efficient way for each user, and can be attached to the thigh or around the neck.
USER TESTING: “Alejo and his quarter pounder”.
In Jan 2021, we had the chance to meet Alejo, a 9-year-old diagnosed with Autism. Alejo has a severe speech impairment, but with a remarkable intention to communicate with people around him.
Only 60 days after we trained his family and speech therapist to use OTTAA, we received a very inspiring video of Alejo asking for his favorite order: a McDonald’s Quarter Pounder with Cheese. The person that was filming the video was able to capture his parents’ happiness and Alejo's smile and satisfaction of being able to successfully interact with a complete stranger.
It's very difficult to explain how we felt while seeing the video. OTTAA, the app that we had created to help our own grandmother, was now being used to help a boy with autism to communicate in a social environment, giving him the autonomy he deserves.
OPEN SOURCE HARDWARE
We proudly declare that our OAS has an Open-Source Hardware license (OSHWA), so that our products reach as many people as possible and also continuously improve with contributions from the community. This OTTAA accessibility suite aims to democratize tech/device access to severe & mild motor impaired. During this period, we managed to deploy 75 accessibility devices, 9 of those to vulnerable kindergartens in Atacama, Northern Chile.
COLLABORATION WITH CIREHA
During OTTAA's development journey, we had the chance to meet Martin Bedouret, Founder & CEO of Cboard and past investeed of the UNICEF Innovation Fund. We have created a partnership aimed at boosting the impact and growth of both our AAC tools. Cboard will use OTTAA's marketing channels and OTTAA will be able to offer a grid-based, web communication tool to users who today cannot access OTTAA.
By having deep conversations with family members, we understood the complex reality that they had to face every single day to address the needs of their children with disabilities and other economic challenges that they might be facing. During the investment period, we redesigned our business model in order to offer our technology at no direct cost to our users, with the technology being paid by health insurance providers. This allowed us to grow and expand our solution to those most in need. For this redesign to take action, we collaborated with caregivers who use OTTAA, healthcare law practitioners, and insurance companies to ensure we could provide this service to our users.
With the UNICEF investment, we were able to test new markets and we now have users from Ecuador, Guatemala, El Salvador, and many more countries across the region. Our plan for the next year is to localize our algorithm for each country and deploy it; by adding local context and language, we can make our users feel a strong connection with our solution and achieve a much higher societal acceptance.
We are confident that we are ready, technology and business-wise, to grow our impact from thousands to millions of users. To do that, we are opening a pre-seed SAFE round to professionalize our manufacturing process and deploy our technology to many Spanish-speaking countries in Latin America.
A peek into our next tech development — we are about to launch a cutting-edge accessibility device that gives users autonomy and substantially improves their lifestyle by allowing a person paralyzed from the neck down to be able to fully control a PC, empowering them to work and recreate. We are eager to be a step closer to fulfilling our vision of becoming a global one-stop solution for technology for people with disabilities; with innovation, affordability, and empathy as key motivators and guidelines.
Every day we work to improve people with disabilities’ lifestyles by returning the voice to all those who have lost it; we are sure that technology can empower people with disabilities.