UP is a communication platform developed for young adults with Down syndrome.

Capitalising on their need to keep in touch with family and friends, UP tries to make learning ubiquitous. Building on their relative strengths in visual memory and word identification, it seeks to develop their language and communication skills over time.

Down syndrome is one of the most common genetic causes of developmental delay, resulting in a distinct set of cognitive, physical and social characteristics. This combination of effects on human abilities makes for a strong case to design specifically for this user group. The fact that life expectancy for this group has increased dramatically over the last decades, to more than 60 years in developed countries, underlines the importance of such an approach.

Research and Design Process

During this two month project, I met with six individuals who have Down syndrome and their families. Through observation, interviews and co-creation sessions I was able to better understand the individuals’ needs, strengths and possible use-cases and context.

Through the research process I uncovered an interesting pattern among the older individuals (18-25) I met with: they lived away from their families, they had not been taught how to properly read and write in school and were no longer a part of the general education system and they were familiar with computers, tablets and smart phones.

Moving through a range of prototypes, both physical and digital, I explored different interaction patterns and system models. I tested out physical and digital prototypes with three individuals and their families in Denmark and Norway.

Final Prototype

Based on insights from the prototype testing sessions, I developed a fully functional digital platform which is still running and being used. The cross-platform application has a graphical interface which allows the user to compose messages, without having to write. Combining text to speech synthesis and word highlighting enables the user to play back received messages. The platform converts messages to and from SMS texts, utilising existing mobile infrastructure.

For more information and future work, visit www.hlundberg.com