What we built with £45,000 from Comic Relief

Presenter Notes

A heroic adventure in three acts with guest appearances from snotty crying, legal threats, and occasionally useful bits of AAC knowledge.

Presenter Notes

Thank you everyone for coming. We all have big workloads and I really appreciate you picking out this session and giving me your attention for an hour. I really hope you get a lot out of it.


  • You can view this presentation at http://joereddington.com/slides/cm2019/

  • Go ahead and tweet, I'm also auto-tweeting the slides as they come up.

  • Who Have I got? (show of hands)

Presenter Notes

Let's start with housekeeping, if you have trouble seeing the slides in this room you can bring them up on your own devices with that link. Handy if you want to quickly go back or indeed, skip to the end.

The slides will also be autotweeted @jr_inPerson so if you want to later ask questions about any of them, that's a good place to start...

Ego slide

  • Dr Joseph Redington @joereddington @jr_inperson
  • Computer Scientist
  • eQuality Time, charity set up in 2014
  • I'm a sibling, my brother Richard had his life changed by AAC at Beaumont College
  • I built the Domesday Dataset
  • I ran the Speechful podcast

Presenter Notes

Goals for Talk

  • Everybody is aware of the risks of launching a new project
  • Everybody understands why open projects are resilient to this.
  • Everyone gets a healthy respect of Medical Device Registration.
  • Someone might tell me what I'm doing wrong.
  • Nobody stays if they aren't enjoying themselves.

Presenter Notes


Act 1:

  • What's the Open Voice Factory?
  • How we got Comic Relief to give us £45,000 for an AAC project.

Act 2:

  • The problems to solve: medical device registration and checking we actually have something worthwhile
  • Building a team.

Act 3:

  • Medical Device Registration
  • Entirely new system.

Presenter Notes

Act 1: What's the Open Voice Factory? and how we got Comic Relief to give us £45,000 for an AAC project.

Presenter Notes

The Open Voice Factory

  • We think AAC should be completely free
  • We recognise that cost comes in different forms

When we founded eQuality Time, we wanted to make open and free AAC software a key part of what we do.

  • Step one was producing CommuniKate, the open access pageset
  • Step two was the Open Voice Factory.

Presenter Notes


Paulo Ricca Alison Carpenter André Nascimento Megan Hughes
Brian Whitmer Trevor Mobbs Carla Pinto Anna Flynn
David Niemeijer Diana Mountain Miguel Bento Alves Janet and Michael Williams
Hugo Pacheco Fil McIntyre Laurine Groux-Moreau Joe Reddington
Will Wade Angie McCormac Maria Hewett Kate McCallum
Margarida Pinto Janet Mayers Paul Hewett Kirsty McNaught
Ian Foulger Katie Clarke Gemma Eardley Steve Canny
Julie Bello Helen Quiller Zak Sly Tom Bamber
Marlene Padrão Helen Dixon Stef Armitage Ivona Hristova
José Danado Tamsin Crothers Sally Featon Jaroslav Ryník

Presenter Notes

How the Open Voice Factory works

  • The Open Voice Factory is about free AAC
  • Fully live site
  • For all the missing people
  • Edit by PowerPoint.
  • Uses the Open Board format
  • Entirely Open Source
  • It has failed.

Presenter Notes

This presentation isn't strictly speaking about the Open Voice Factory, but you need to know a bit about it to go forwards

18,000 people in the UK would benefit from powered AAC but don't have access. Cost is understood to be one of the big barriers. And it's not just that the system costs a grand it's the time and the energy of the appointments to be assessed for funding.

So we started the Open Voice Factory - which is an entirely free AAC device. If you go to the website you can click the link and use the default version.

If you want to edit it, that's cool, we actually use Powerpoint as the editing device, you download the file, make changes to it, and then upload it again. The Open Voice Factory will give you a unique link that is to the aid you just created.

It uses the Open Board format so it's entirely compatible with things like CoughDrop and Optikey.

This was how I was going to change the world, and it's failed. People aren't using it and I don't know why. I wish I did, I and lots of other people have poured our hearts into it and it's not getting used. So if anyone has an idea, then I am all ears.

I'm going to keep running it, almost entirely out of stubboness, but that's actually the subject of this talk. And I should move on.

Comic Relief

We are ridiculously grateful to Comic Relief; both the funding at the way they awarded it.

  • Where we were beforehand
  • Simply entry: video and single page
  • Video is at:
  • Fund wasn't actually for us.
  • Tech person in interview
  • shortlist meant it was 50-50.
  • Serious group - Samaritans, Oxfam
  • Didn't need a plan

Presenter Notes

So the reason for the talk is that Comic Relief gave us £45,000 to work on the Open Voice Factory and it would be good to tell people what we did with it. There are things I'm proud of and things I'm ashamed of.

Lots of things happened and I've tried to pick out the things that I think you would be interested in. The rest of the talk is roughly divided between those things however, I'm going to be lead by you. If you look bored I'm going to move on, if you look interested I'll spend a bit more time with it. If I skip your favourite bit then come see me afterwards I'll talk about it personally.

So, watching your faces carefully... I'm going to talk about how to get comic relief to give you £45,000, which I think will be useful because some of you have similar projects. Okay,

I'm going to talk about the overall project plan, what we wanted to do and how we wanted to do it.

I'm going to talk about medical device registration, hopefully in an interesting way, and if any of you are event thinking about developing any tools or resources then you'll need to hear that.

I'm going to talk about Fraud, it's not particularly AAC related, but it happened to us, it wasn't very nice and we got hurt. And if you are ever going to pay a programmer you might want to know about it.

Act 2: The problems to solve and building a team.

Presenter Notes


  • People didn't know much about it.
  • We might be doing it wrong.
  • Medical device registration: like parking a aircraft carrier


  • Find a cohort and interview them
  • Pass the feedback to the coders
  • Ask them again

If we go around that loop enought then we'll be sure.


Ask serious and important people. 'Alpha Pup strategy'

Meanwhile - spend money on Medical Device Registration. Get a consultant, do the business

Presenter Notes

Building a team.

  • Me.
  • Pageset Designer
  • Documentation Writer.
  • Coders
  • Medical Device Consultant

Everyone given/told about their first jobs

Presenter Notes

If you haven't ever managed a project should you probably know that 90% of your budget is staff. Everything else is just noise. Staff is everything.

Getting started

  • Gathered our people. Some where easier than others:
    • Lee Ridley
    • RCSLT/CM
    • Academics
    • Users
      • NCOs
  • Customer is always right
  • Created a big set of issues to deal with.
  • Some for me, some for programmers, some for designers

Lots of good content lots of things changed.

Presenter Notes

Medical Device Registration

  • Restructure the whole organisation
  • Very clear written processes in place for everything.
  • The actual submission isn't about the device, it's a set of evidence.
  • Need to comply with a range of ISOs, which you have to pay for
  • Literally never been done with an open source device.

Presenter Notes

Rocks fall

  • Fraud
  • Caused by lack of capacity

Presenter Notes

Act 3: Medical Device Registration and new system

  • More consultants
  • More paperwork
  • Hero volunteers
  • Snotty Crying

Presenter Notes


  • We aren't going to stop.
  • Open source will come and we are putting cracks in the wall
  • We remain a serious bit of the puzzle.
  • I'm in the mood for something big and bold

Presenter Notes

Goals for Talk

  • Everybody is aware of the risks of launching a new project
  • Everybody understands why open projects are resilient to this.
  • Everyone gets a healthy respect of Medical Device Registration.
  • Someone might tell me what I'm doing wrong.
  • Nobody stays if they aren't enjoying themselves.

Presenter Notes


Presenter Notes