Aleana Percivalle and her thesis on books in symbols of inclusive design

Although, since ancient times, alternative communication systems have been used that enabled people with disabilities to understand and be understood (formerly Plato, in his dialogue Cratilodedicated to language, made Socrates say, “If we had no voice or language and wanted to manifest things for each other, we might not try, as the fools do, to denote them with our hands, with our heads, and with other limbs of the body. […] If we wanted to indicate the upward and the light, we would, I think, raise our hands to the sky and try to imitate the nature of the object itself; and if, on the other hand, the down or the grave, we would lower them to the ground. And if we were to indicate either a horse in the process of running or any other animal, you know very well that we would try to represent them as best we can with our body and our gestures “), the modern era of the so-called CAAAugmentative and Alternative Communication, commonly traced back to the 1950s, when in North America first and then in Europe began to study, systematize and develop languages, in fact, alternative to speak, and to use them not to replace, but to increase the individual’s natural communication skills.

In 1983, ISAAC, the International Society for Augmentative and Alternative Communication, was founded in Toronto, and the CAA also began to spread in Italy, where ISAAC-ITALY was born in 2003, which bases its activity on a charter of communication rights that I invite everyone to read and it starts like this:
“Every person, regardless of the degree of disability, has the fundamental right to influence the conditions of his life through communication”.
It means being able to give and receive information in such a way that one has the opportunity to choose, ask, participate, reject (we do not know until we are denied how crucial the right to be able to express a NO is ).

(courtesy: Aleana Percivalle)
(courtesy: Aleana Percivalle)

There are also books that use AAC techniques and strategies. Unfortunately, it is still a very small niche in the publishing world. But there are books in AAC, too, and above all for girls and boys, who thus do not have to give up the adventures and stories that are typical of children’s books.
It is around these kinds of books that the thesis revolves Aleana Percivallewhich already appeared here on Frizzifrizzi for another university project – produced with two classmates – which told the fate of three plastic slippers through illustrated books.

Created for the master’s degree in visual and multimedia communication design by the IUAV in Venice, the thesis has the title Books in symbols for inclusive design: create symbols for AAC and experiment with their arrangement in space and consists of the creation of two versions in the AAC of an illustrated story (the drawings are by Oliver Jeffers), a girl and a penguin.

Below is a little more information about the project, which I hope will allow Aleana to collaborate with some publisher to create and publish truly inclusive books like the ones she designed for her research.

(courtesy: Aleana Percivalle)
(courtesy: Aleana Percivalle)

QWhen we talk about inclusive design, we refer to designs for human diversity, social inclusion and equality.
The beauty of this type of design approach is that the artifacts created are not only accessible to end users, in this case autistic children, but are accessible to a large number of people.

The project is divided into:

1. A User Manual which contains research on AAC (Augmentative and Alternative Communication), symbols and the relationship between text and image;

2. Creation of new symbols and CAA.
The symbols were built after the study of the various existing symbolic systems and by using PASS as a basis, or the image-enhancing synthesic system (Bonora, G., Dalai, G., De Rosa, D., Panunzi, M., Perondi, L. , Rubertelli, C., 2019. PASS: Picture Augmentative Synsemic System. A new system for AAC habilitation practice, theoretical background, available here), so that the choice of graphic language can communicate coherently with the symbols already present in this system. At the same time, new internal coherence criteria have been investigated and implemented;

Realization of two books for children (The penguin and the little girl).
The books contain the same story, but have a different layout of the text in symbols and illustrations.

(courtesy: Aleana Percivalle)
(courtesy: Aleana Percivalle)

None.In the first book, the symbols are placed on the pages after the arrangement of Sabatini’s diagrams, an alternative grammar that places the verb at the center of the understanding of the sentence.
In the second book, the symbols are arranged in a linear way that is completely different from the picture (as children’s books in AAC are designed today).

The two books were subsequently tested on end users (autistic children) in collaboration with the Piccolo Principe Center in Ferrara and with the help of various speech therapists.

The purpose of the experiment was to understand which placement of the text and illustration allows greater understanding in autistic children.
Although the final results do not provide an opportunity to answer the research question, the study opens the basis for new research and insights in this area.

Both books and symbols are designed according to the principles of inclusive design, therefore they arise from observation, research and the needs of individuals, given the many facets, children’s diverse abilities and the normal diversity that exists in the world.

Credits
Graduate: Aleana Percivalle
Speaker: Luciano Perondi
Co-rapporteur: Cecilia Rubertelli

Master’s thesis on the design of visual and multimedia communication by the IUAV in Venice

(courtesy: Aleana Percivalle)
(courtesy: Aleana Percivalle)
(courtesy: Aleana Percivalle)
(courtesy: Aleana Percivalle)
(courtesy: Aleana Percivalle)
(courtesy: Aleana Percivalle)
(courtesy: Aleana Percivalle)
(courtesy: Aleana Percivalle)
(courtesy: Aleana Percivalle)
(courtesy: Aleana Percivalle)

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