Widgit symbols could be a life saver

Widgit Software is famous for its symbols which are used widely in schools, colleges and day centres. Now they are beginning to develop a set of resources for the Health Service too.

Jane is 19 and has learning disabilities so she sometimes finds it hard to put thoughts into words. She has a 24 hour package of care but goes on her own in a taxi to college, to day care or to visit her friends.

She has several different medical conditions and her family worry about how she would cope in an emergency. Would people understand her? Would she get the treatment she needs?

ICE cards are playing an increasingly important part in health care. ICE stands for In Case of Emergency and users fill in details of emergency contacts, medications and allergies.

Alex Jordan is a volunteer administration assistant for Care Division, a registered care provider which has offices in Hampshire and Dorset.  She knows Jane well. Alex has first hand experience of symbols. She did not speak until she was more than 5 years old and symbols and signing became her lifeline when communicating with others.

I still use symbols on a daily basis to make  visual reminders for myself and to let service users like Jane  know what is happening,’ she said. ‘They might want a visual timetable of activities or a copy of a care rota so they can see when particular members of staff will be on duty.’

Alex is delighted with the Widgit ICE cards. ‘We find that some adults who have never encountered symbols before take to Widgit symbols straightaway because they are so simple and visual.  They help people like Jane communicate with others and make themselves understood. The Widgit ICE cards could, quite literally, be a  lifeline in an emergency.’

Widgit has the largest symbol supported vocabulary of all printed symbol systems and can be printed out in black and white or colour. Black and white symbols are clear and simple, ideal for some of our users who are easily distracted while colour can provide helpful clues for others.

Have a look at their health materials which include resources for diabetics and  information to help health professionals work with people with communication difficulties who have having routine procedures.