Our Summer 2020 newsletter featured Derwen College Industry Champion, Neil Bevan, and the work his company had been doing with Derwen College in the development of their award-winning ‘Support Work’ mobile apps.
The lessons learned, the success of the project and the collaboration with the college, which includes the ‘Working in a Printshop’ app used in Derwen’s Karten Printshop, prompted Neil to separate out the app development side of his design and marketing business to form a new company – Starfish Labs Ltd.
Starfish Labs has recently launched the first of a suite of apps to support people with special educational needs and disabilities to understand the changes in society and regulations due to the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic.
The app, ‘COVID-19: Staying Safe’, has been part funded by the Welsh Government rapid response Covid-19 RD&I scheme, and is unique in allowing carers, parents or teachers to customise the content using their own photographs, video and spoken word, and simple steps to make the wearing of masks, lockdown restrictions and hand washing etc. familiar and relevant to the user’s own environment and to the changing regional and local lockdown rules. Generic content is available in English and Welsh. You can find out more about how the apps can be customised and a link to download at: https://starfishlabs.co.uk/products/
A further two apps, ‘COVID-19: Social Space’ covering social distancing and the concept of support bubbles etc., and ‘COVID-19: Happy&Healthy’, covering general health and wellbeing are due for launch during February.
The first app is available now for iPhone and iPad from the App Store, and will shortly be available for Android on Google Play. The additional apps will be available on both platforms as soon as they are published. The cost of the app is £3.99 and proceeds will be re-invested in further projects to support vulnerable people.
The apps were created in collaboration with Derwen College, working with their tutors on content, and feature Derwen clients (many of whom are former students) demonstrating the correct use of face masks, how to wash your hands, the use of hand sanitiser and other aspects of Covid-safe support through videos and photographs, along with cartoon images and Makaton symbols.
Teaming up with two additional directors, Neil and Kirsten Bevan established the new tech startup at Aberystwyth University Innovation & Enterprise Centre, to take advantage of the R&D collaboration opportunities with the University. The company is specifically focussed on developing apps for the SEND sector, to support people with training apps to improve their lives, and to developing relationships which will also be financially beneficial or will provide enhanced learning and enrichment opportunities to the people and organisations with whom they work.
The company has already created employment for two graduates and is about to employ a further developer, having recently won a significant export project in the SEND sector in the UAE.
Starfish Labs Director, Neil Bevan, says, “As the Covid-19 pandemic is still very much with us, the ongoing changes in lockdown rules and guidance in different parts of the UK are confusing for many people, and especially for those with learning difficulties.”
“So much of the existing guidance doesn’t really mean very much to someone who has Autism or who doesn’t recognise that generic images of hand washing, or face coverings have any meaning to their own life. We recognised that a suite of apps could help to simplify the guidance – breaking instructions down into understandable short sequences – and the ability for people to use their own photos or videos of their own masks, their own washbasin, and their own local environment would make the rules much more relevant.”
Neil continues, “We are grateful to Welsh Government for supporting Starfish Labs in funding the development of the apps, and we’re proud to be developing them in Welsh, as well as English, to support vulnerable people in Wales who may have Welsh as their first language. We’re also really pleased to be working with Derwen College again on this project.”
Starfish Labs is also looking to develop versions of the apps in other languages, such as Urdu and Punjabi.
Further information from:
Neil BevanDirector – Starfish Labs Ltd – email: firstname.lastname@example.org
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