Communication FixUp : Alex Long

The purpose of this application is to give the most severe disability the power to communicate basic needs. A tool that can easily process speech, signs and gestures, create pictures, symbols, and letters would assist those with the most severe disabilities but with the technology in today’s devices this social just tool can assist the everyday Joe. This application will be entirely accessible to anyone with a severe need to simple directions to the bathroom.

The application addresses the basic needs for communication by providing an Alternative and Augmentative Communication for an individual with disabilities with app-enabled phones. The application empowers the user to transmit the information needed for positive results. The ability to select a database of images, emoticons and text reinforced by the ease of use will allow even the most severely disabled the ability to communicate. “The silence of speechlessness is never golden. We all need to communicate and connect with each other – not just in one way, but in as many ways as possible. It is a basic human need, a basic human right. And more than this, it is a basic human power… (B. Williams, 2000, p. 248).” Technology that is easily accessible now has the ability to provide a wide range of ways to communicate.

The intended user of this app has severe communication disabilities with the yearning to properly express their needs or emotions with ease and speed. Today’s smart devices feature technology that can detect an abnormal behavior that can detect a need or emergency before it occurs. For those with serious health problems this application will feature a heart pressure monitor and sleep patterns. The user is very aware of the type of technology being interacted with. Fortunately clear and concise communication tools are available on devices that are socially accepted. …[the iPad] provides a rather elegant solution to the social integration problem. Kids with even the most advanced dedicated speech device are still carrying around something that tells the world “I have a disability.” Kids using an iPad have a device that says, “I’m cool.” And being cool, being like anyone else, means more to them than it does to any of us. (Rummel-Hudson, 2011, p. 22). This is technology that will be useful for anyone with non-verbal communication needs.

This application is also intended for individuals who do not speak the native language of the country they are in. This is a benefit of mobile media being used for globalization. By using this application, a foreign laborer can be effective at work by using the Alternative and Augmentative Communication system. Social Justice issues arise when there are forces benefiting or hurting social groups, and by giving access to a basic communication tool there is a balancing that occurs. “The United Nations estimates the total number of illiterate adults to be about 800 million worldwide, 270 million of whom are located in Indie alone, and defines illiteracy as a “person who cannot with understanding both read and write a short simple statement on their everyday life” (Chipchase 80). Those that do not have the proper education or life circumstances will be able to make use of this app.

The technology is available to fully allow people facing social justice issues ranging from disabilities to education to integrate themselves into the mobile media world. With applications that allow the most simple form of communication, they will be greater globalization because of mobile media. Understanding the importance of leveling out the serious issues  individuals in society is the beginning of change to “the operation of power: the social construction, or shaping, of disability in technology has decisively to do with relation of power” (Goggin and Newell 2003). Those with social justice issues were not thought of during the first stages of the digital world but with new applications that is changing.

Works Cited

Cell phone culture: mobile technology in everyday life By: Goggin, Gerard. Routledge 2006

Handbook of mobile communication studies By: Katz, James Everett. MIT Press 2008

Rummel – Hudson. R. (2011) A revolution at their fingertips. Perspectives on Augmentative and Alternative Communication, 19-23.

Willliams, B. (2000). More than an exception to the rule. Speaking up and spelling it out (pp. 245–254). Baltimore, MD: Paul H. Brookes.

Putting Smartphones in Young, Homeless Hands

In an age of information and technology, more and more issues everyday are being alleviated with the use of mobile technology and apps. Some causes lend themselves more to technology than others however. In the case of urban homelessness,if an application were to be used for this, the question arises of who this application would be targeted to. Although it concerns homeless individuals, one must take into consideration the extent of these people’s access to technology, if any. Given such a wide array of types of homelessness, it is difficult to predict whether someone can gain access to a computer or a phone. A study done in 2014 entailed a research team giving prepaid phones to 98 homeless youths. The participants were screened in a shelter that is tailored specifically to homeless youths between the ages of 18 and 21. Once given the phones, the participants were contacted for follow up meetings and interviews. The study showed that these youths were most likely to contact the researchers through text messaging and phone calling rather than by means of Facebook messaging. After the first rounds of interviews, a large portion of the youths were retained. (Bender) This not only shows that a large demographic of the homeless population would use technology if offered but it shows even how they prefer to use it. This shows that taking the risk of providing homeless youths with such technology could certainly be very much worth it.

Though the study was certainly successful, it does not provide much more information than how the youths prefer to communicate and how many chose to remain in the study. While useful, this is really only a basis for all that could be accomplished through a program that utilizes an approach like this one. Assuming that phones through some means or another could be distributed to young and homeless individuals, an application targeted towards these same youth is the next logical step. A large concern with homeless youths is that they will get involved with drugs or crime. I believe with the intervention of mobile technology, the numbers of homeless youths going down such paths can be curbed. The way to do this would be to create an app that would allow young homeless individuals to check in with advisors and counselors from anywhere and conversely, allow these same professionals to reach out to these people if a long amount of time passes without any check-in. With such a service, communication would become immensely more efficient. Shelters could advertise when there is open space and could provide a hub for youths to come and if there is not room, an alert can be broadcast.

The numbers of youths using these could be useful as well seeing as percentages and statistics of homeless youths are often all over the board. (Murphy) Hopefully, an application such as this could aid in more accurate statistics.

Of course, there is the issue of how many of these devices could conventionally distributed and how best to make sure youths stick with the program. If the app is not beneficial almost immediately, that could potentially mean a lost phone and youth already.

Bender, K., Begun, S., DePrince, A., Haffejee, B., & Kaufmann, S. (2014). Utilizing Technology for Longitudinal Communication With Homeless Youth. Social work in health care, 53(9), 865-882.


Murphy, J., & Tobin, K. (2014). Homelessness in the U.S.: a historical analysis. American Educational History Journal, 41(1-2), 267+.

The Complex Relationship between Disabilities and Mobile Media – Alex Long

The new apple iWatch and similar technologies can be used as a complete and functional communication tool that is accessible for all types of people. The iWatch will be the first widely accepted wearable technology and will inspire the continued growth of Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) technology. The abilities of the iWatch will allow the user to easily initiate communication but it will also be able to predict situations with problematic outcomes.

The social reality of wearable technology is quite dim as of now, however “the iPad, iPod and iPhone may provide a more socially “accepted” means of communication” ( Those with disabilities are very conscious of wearable technology but there is great potential for the iWatch to be accepted into the social norm. Since it is constantly in view and extremely accessible, the user must have full control of how interaction with the technology takes place.

Disabilities is a complex social issue and using Augmentative and Alternative Communication as a basis for the app will provide complete and functional communication for people with severe disabilities. “AAC may be used in three main ways ([32] Von Tetzchner and Martinsen, 2000). Some people may need AAC if they have comprehension skills which are in advance of their expressive skills. For this group of people, the issue is that they have more to communicate about than their current means of expression will allow. For another group of people, the AAC support may be a temporary means or may only be needed in some specific situations. Lastly, AAC may be needed for both expressive communication and for comprehension.” The app will be able to be used to expressive emotions rapidly for emergency situations as well as being usable for basic communication .

The app will be able to predict the users habits to determine a potentially troubling situation. The iWatch has the ability to predict the habits of the user by logging information based on location and time to determine if the day is “normal”.  The app will also log user biometrics, including heart rate, kinetics, and temperature to ensure the user is “normal”. With increased information about the user, there is an increase of how the user can be helped.

The design of the app will incorporate simple mathematics to provide consistency throughout.  Using a scale system of 1-10, the user will be immediately display the urgency of help that is needed. Depending on the level of disability, the user will have a variety of ways to invoke the start of communication.

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The intended audience for this app is anyone who needs functional and complete communication, particularly for those in need, such as people with severe disabilities.

Works Cited

Bradshaw, J. (2013). The use of augmentative and alternative communication apps for the iPad, iPod and iPhone: An overview of recent developments. Tizard Learning Disability Review, 18(1), 31-37. doi:

Anthony, K (2015). Conducting Cognitive Exercises for Early Dementia With the Use of Apps on Ipads. Communication Disorders Quarterly 2015, Vol. 36(2) 102-106,

Thomas, C. (2014, Sep 17). Have an emergency? there’s an app for that. The Charleston Gazette Retrieved from

App/Tech Concept: Helping Sexual Assault Victims Report

There are a couple of  applications today that address the prevention of sexual assault. For example 6 circle is an app that allows users to reach six trusted pre-selected group of friends with clear message and GPS locator alerting them to call and interrupt or to come and pick her/him up, if she/he feels uneasy and/or potential in harm in one click of a button. Application like that though provide prevention assistance, what about applications that provide assistance to those that have been sexually assaulted and want to report the crime safely, privately, and effectively? My research on reporting sexual assault found that victims of sexual assault usually choose not to report because various reasons including lack of faith in the justice system and/or shame/self doubt. The mobile technology concept that I have developed will help with issues regarding underreported sexual assaults. It will provide assistance with, police reporting practices, access victim services, an increase of the victims personal sense of safety and delivering a sense of closure to the victims (Vicki Vopni 2006).

We covered earlier that 11% of victims that police documented did not wish to report claimed they were encouraged by the police to drop the charges (Murphy, Edwards, Bennett, Bibeau & Sichelstiel 2013; Vopni 2006), with the app I’ve developed all police departments will be provided with a software where they are required to follow sensible and more companionate reporting practices for cases of sexual assaults. Knowing that particular language is very likely to make victims feel intimidated and/or interrogated my software is designed to provide investigating officers with specific language and questions when investigating a report that will not make the victim feel that she/he is being condescended, blamed, and/or interrogated. This should help lower the negative experiences victims undergo when reporting a sexual assault. But that is only the beginning when carrying out a report, as we know out of 32 cases 7 lead to arrest and only 2 are actually prosecution (RAINN), in order to help increase the prosecution of an offender the software will require detailed documentation of statements and in other evidence to be logged by officers where it will be sent directly to the message broad of an assistant district attorney (that the apps systematically picks).

The technology is not only intended to be use by the Police department, and assistant District attorneys but victims of sexual assault and others will have access to a public version of this app. Victims will we able the report there assault anonymously before going to the police, that way they will be able to provide an accurate documentation of the assault without feeling they are be interrogated. To also help ease any possible fear or distress (something that  normally would reduces a victim’s decision) of reporting their anonymous report will be allowed to securely save with a timestamp marking when it was stored until the victim may be ready to submit it to authorities. User of this app will be provided with contacts to assault-response resources like law enforcement (Police Department Special Victims Unit or the office of victim/witness services and not just 911), medical facilities and resources, and 24-hour support hotlines.

Works Cited
Vopni, Vicki. “Young Women’s Experiences with Reporting Sexual Assault to Police.” Canadian Woman Studies 25.1 (2006): 107-14. ProQuest. Web. 15 Feb. 2015.

Murphy, S. B., Edwards, K. M., Bennett, S., Bibeau, S. J., & Sichelstiel, J. (2014). Police reporting practices for sexual assault cases in which “The victim does not wish to pursue charges”. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 29(1), 144-156.

Reducing Axiety Among Non-Binary Individuals Using a Peer-Sourced Location-Based Mobile Application to Increase Social Support Networks and Encourage Facilitative Coping

The technology that I want to design is a peer-sourced location-based mobile application that catalogues binary gendered spaces and provides a safe anonymous place to share experiences in those spaces with a community made up primarily of others who are more able understand these experiences. The target user of this application is an individual with a non-binary gender identity, with the specific intention of being useful to those who suffer from anxiety. 39% of non-binary individuals presented anxiety symptoms in a 2014 study as opposed to 28.8% of the general population (Budge, Howard, & Rossman, 2014).

89% of non-binary individuals have reported “some discomfort” when encountering binary gendered rest-rooms (Factor and Rothblum, 2008). The app would allow users to know in advance whether a location has binary gendered restrooms, whether there is a non-binary option, and whether that option is still labeled using binary language or imagery (many unisex bathroom signs are either the “family bathroom” with a depiction of a traditional family or a have a sign depicting a male and female symbol separated by a line). The user could also deliberately seek out facilities that provide non-binary options (with details about how) in addition to simply viewing information about all facilities around them. This logic could be applied to other facilities including locker rooms and dressing rooms which are often segregated according to binary gender.

In cases of other potentially binary gendered spaces, like clothing stores, the app would provide the user with information about these spaces in their immediate vicinity. This includes what kind of binary gendered language and/or imagery they may encounter and reports from other users about the environment they encountered in the space. The user can then make informed decisions about spaces they will enter and allow them to cope with exposure to spaces which can be distressing by providing advance knowledge. By being able to read about other user’s experiences (submitted anonymously) users can, for example, avoid spaces where others have experienced discrimination. Of course not all experiences are negative. Users can also share good experiences and can choose to favor spaces where others have had good experiences.

The ability of users to share their experiences is important in creating a social support element in the app. Social support refers to “‘support accessible to an individual through social ties to other individuals, groups, and the larger community’” (Lin et al., 1979, as cited in Ozbay et al., 2007). This network is most commonly made up of “family, friends, neighbors, and community members” (Ozbay et al., 2007). These are essentially the people who an individual feels they can trust and who can provide help for them. The app would seek to extend this network to other users of the app by allowing the user to be in contact with and safely share feelings and experiences with other users. Ideally users would also be able to interact, replying to posts. A voting system where negatively scored posts are taken down and reviewed could help to make sure the function is used in a constructive manner despite anonymity. 

Social support has an important effect on mental health. Among non-binary (genderqueer) individuals higher levels of social support (or a stronger network) have been linked to lower levels of both anxiety and depression, but in the case of anxiety it was also linked to an increase in healthy emotional coping (“facilitative coping”) methods which in turn are linked to lower anxiety (Budge, Howard, & Rossman, 2014). The function of the app in providing a medium for social support is of increased importance considering that non-binary (genderqueer) individuals have been found to receive less social support from their families (a key part of the social support network) than binary gendered siblings (Factor and Rothblum, 2008).

Therefore the app could increase perceptions of social support for users and possibly lead to lower levels of anxiety, but also could encourage “facilitative” coping in other areas of life which could lead to further lowered anxiety levels. Facilitative coping is “when an individual seeks psychotherapy, becomes open to learning new skills, attempts to positively adapt, and are open to other/additional avenues of happiness” (Budge, Howard, & Rossman, 2014). By this definition, the app not only could encourage healthy coping in other areas of life, but actually itself qualifies as a method facilitative coping by providing resources to help users positively adapt to their surroundings (by empowering users to make informed decisions).

Works Cited

Budge, S., Rossman, K., & Howard, K. (2014). Coping and psychological distress among genderqueer individuals: The moderating effect of social support.Journal F LGBT Issues in Counseling, 8(1), 95-117. Retrieved February 12, 2015, from

Factor, R., & Rothblum, E. (2008). Exploring Gender Identity And Community Among Three Groups Of Transgender Individuals In The United States: MTFs, FTMs, And Genderqueers. Health Sociology Review, 17(3), 235-253. Retrieved February 14, 2015, from|A188159176&v=2.1&u=temple_main&it=r&p=AONE&sw=w&authCount=1

Ozbay, F., Johnson, D., Dimoulas, E., Morgan, III., C., Charney, D., & Southwick, S. (2007). Social Support and Resilience to Stress From Neurobiology to Clinical Practice. Psychiatry (Edgmont), 4(5). Retrieved February 21, 2015, from

Meshing the Digital Divide

The digital divide is defined as the “gap between individuals, households, businesses, and geographic areas at different socio-economic levels in regards to opportunities access information and use communication technologies (ICTs) and their use of the internet for a wide variety of activities” (OECD, 2011). Lei & Zhou believe the digital divide “refers to the technology capacity gap between those who have accesses to rich digital information and those who have not” (Lei & Zhup.45).

In 2014, it was estimated that around 15 million Americans do not have access to entry-level broadband Internet connections (Wheeler, 2014). Most of these Americans live in rural areas around the country, though that is not the only place this connectivity issue can be found. In urban areas, 31% of schools lack access to fiber-optic networks while the number shoots to 41% for rural areas (Wheeler, 2014). Our schools and libraries must have access to fiber-optic connections to give students the most innovative tools for them to gain an education with. As we move further and further into the digital age it has become imperative that our children understand what Internet access can bring them. It is even more important that they learn Internet literacy and how to use the Internet in a positive way.

You may remember the uprising in Egypt in 2011 or more recently the protests headed by college students that have been going on in Hong Kong. These groups of activists both saw their government’s block and in some cases even shut down the Internet. In both cases, the activists turned to what is known as a “mesh-network” (Knibbs, 2014 Tofel, 2011). A mesh network is that enables a communication technologies device to receive and transmit signals. Tofel calims the mesh network to do “much like a router for does in wireless homes” (Tofel, 2011). In Hong Kong protesters are using an app called FireChat that assist people in creating mesh-networks for their phones. FireChat works using Bluetooth technology on the mobile phone to link with other mobile devices setting up a network (Knibbs, 2014). Even if one device goes off line this does not harm the network. Currently FireChat supports a geographical limit of 200 feet per connection. Given the right set of connections the network could stretch for miles on end.

My idea is to create a mesh-network application that runs across all phones, tablets, and computers regardless of operating system. This application is being made for schools and libraries to bring higher speed Internet connections to learning school children. I’d like to use the theory of mesh-networks to bring high-speed Internet access to these learning institutions. In Red Hook Brooklyn, students set up their own Wi-Fi mesh networks with help of a local ISP Brooklyn Fiber (Lumb, 2013). The application will be sign in based on all systems, in which once signed in the system searches for a close high-speed connection. The more devices connected to the application, the more options of better speeds will become available. This idea will allow fast Internet into schools and libraries without the cost of digging up old phone lines.


Knibbs, K. (2014, September 24). Protesters Are Using FireChat’s Mesh Networks To Organize in Hong Kong. Retrieved February 23, 2015, from

Lei, J., & Zhou, J. (2012). Digital Divide: How Do Home Internet Access and Parental Support Affect Student Outcomes?. Education (Basel) 2:45-53/ DOI:10.3390/educ2010045

Lumb, D. (2013, October 25). How To Build A Low-Cost. Retrieved February 23, 2015, from

OECD iLibrary. (2001). Understanding the digital divide

Wheeler, T. (2014, November 20). Closing the Digital Divide in Rural America. Retrieved February 23, 2015, from

Increasing healthy food access in “food deserts”

A “food desert” is an area where access to healthy and affordable food options is limited or in some cases, completely non-existent. Currently in the United States there are about 23.5 million people living in a food desert (Gali, Clift. 2012). The overwhelming majority of those 23.5 million people live in black or racially mixed communities where small corner bodegas have replaced actual grocery stores even though they rarely sell and fresh fruit or vegetables (Kwate. 2008). As a result, many people living in these food deserts have a disproportionate rate of diabetes, obesity, high blood pressure, and heart disease when compared to those living in predominantly white, middle to upper class neighborhoods where the access to fresh food is four times greater (Go, et al. 2013) . My aim is to design an app that will address and hopefully increase the access to healthy food options in lower income areas that have become food deserts.

The first and most obvious solution to correcting the food desert ordeal is to simply inform those living in a food desert on where they can go to find fresh and healthy food options. The app would have a locator that would scan the users location and show them where the closest fresh food markets are, as well as giving them directions to said markets either by car or by public transportation. The app would also show any sales or coupons for healthy food options available at that store, as well as adding items to their in app grocery list that would allow them to pre-plan their shopping and know the total cost of their items (including tax) before they even get to the store. The only problem with this is that for people living in a food desert the closest grocery store might be twenty miles away and not practical to get to.

This is where the app can really help people living in food deserts in a number of other ways. The app would also include real time instructions for building and maintaining a personal or community garden. It would walk the user through the process step by step, starting with the actual construction of a small plot, all the way to harvesting and preparing their crops for consumption. It would monitor weather conditions in the area through a weather service and let the user know when to plant, when to water, and when to harvest. It would select the best crops to plant in the users geographic location and allow them to order seeds and supplies online for the cheapest prices available, as well as ask for advice from other community gardeners.

If the user was interested in starting a community garden, the app would help them connect to other app users in their area who are also interested. This way they could coordinate their efforts through an in app forum that would be specific to their garden. The app would also offer advice on selecting a site for the garden and as well as getting through the red tape of starting a community garden on publicly or privately owned land. Another added benefit would be that interested community groups could offer to sponsor a garden in their area through the app. Schools, churches, charities, private businesses, or public works departments would all be possible sponsors. The app would also accept donations of gardening supplies, so that they could be distributed to those starting a garden through the app for free.

It is my hope that this app would help grow access to healthy food in low access areas, thus alleviating many of the health problems that arise from living in a food desert.

Works cited:

Galli, A. M. and Clift, B. C. 2012. Food Justice. The Wiley-Blackwell Encyclopedia of Globalization.

Go AS, Mozaffarian D, Roger VL, Benjamin EJ, Berry JD, Borden WB, Bravata DM, Dai S, Ford ES, Fox CS, Franco S, Fullerton HJ, Gillespie C, Hailpern SM, Heit JA, Howard VJ, Huffman MD, Kissela BM, Kittner SJ, Lackland DT, Lichtman JH, Lisabeth LD, Magid D, Marcus GM, Marelli A, Matchar DB, McGuire DK, Mohler ER, Moy CS, Mussoli-no ME, Nichol G, Paynter NP, Schreiner PJ, Sorlie PD, Stein J, Turan TN, Virani SS, Wong ND, Woo D, Turner MB; on behalf of the American Heart Association Statistics Committee and Stroke Statistics Subcommittee. Heart disease and stroke statistics—2013 update: a report from the American Heart Association. Circulation. 2013; 127:e6-e245.

Kwate, N.A. (2008). Fried chicken and fresh apples: Racial segregation as a fundamental cause of fast food density in black neighborhoods. Health and Place. Volume 14, Issue 1. March 2008, Pages 32–44