Boardmaker Symbols become a Statewide Fixture in Connecticut

January 21, 2020

Boardmaker Symbols become a Statewide Fixture in Connecticut

With the generous support from Tobii Dynavox, emergency personnel in CT now have easy access to Boardmaker symbols that will assist them in communicating with nonverbal people in emergency situations.

We are so grateful to this company for allowing the use of these materials for this purpose.

How did this come about?

In 2015, the University of Connecticut Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities received a grant from the CT Council on Developmental Disabilities to develop a flipbook called Tips for Emergency Personnel: Supporting People with Unique Access or Functional Needs (including disabilities).

This flipbook addressed a range of disabilities in terms of their access and functional needs that might affect their interactions with emergency services personnel such as ambulance drivers, firefighters, and police officers.

One section devoted to “Communication Challenges” provided general descriptions of such challenges along with some vital interaction guidelines (i.e. what to look for/take with if an evacuation is necessary). 

In the spring of 2019, several fellows from the Center’s Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental and Related Disabilities (LEND) program put together a prototype flipbook dedicated to enhancing communication and presented it to CT legislators.Representative Liz Linehan, Chair of the Children’s Committee, was so impressed that she worked with the Center on a bill that would later be signed by the Governor and passed into law, Public Act 19-147.

The law required the Center to formalize the communication aid and make it available online and in hardcopy form for all emergency personnel in Connecticut. This effort was funded by the Center through a cooperative with the Administration on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

How did Boardmaker fit into this project?

The answer to this question is in several ways! The symbols chosen were those which are more commonly used in CT public schools and each is accompanied by the word or phrase in both English and Spanish.

There is a section on YES/NO QUESTIONS, where users are reminded that “Some people may do better answering YES/NO questions.

Be careful not to ask either/or questions because those cannot be answered YES/NO. “Ask me a Yes/No question” appears there as well as several times throughout the rest of the flipbook.

Boardmaker icons also appear at the bottom of a QWERTY letterboard so typers can quickly ask for help and correct misunderstandings (“That’s not what I meant”).

Finally, there is an entire section devoted to Picture Communication Symbols.  Topics include “Introducing Yourself” (e.g., I am a nurse), “Basic Answers to Basic Questions” (e.g., good, bad, don’t know), and answers to who, what, how, when, and where questions related to emergencies.


In addition, the symbols can help first responders find out where a nonverbal person needs to go (e.g., shelter, in an ambulance) and to indicate what they may specific to their disability (e.g., medicine, fidgets, ambulation and communication devices) as well as whether they have children, a baby, pets, or a special diet.

Where can you see how we used Boardmaker symbols?

The official title of the resource is “A Comprehensive Emergency Management Training Curriculum Addressing Unique Access and Functional Needs and a companion to PREP IS PERSONAL FIND THE FRIDGE.” For short, we call it the “Emergency Prep Communication flipbook.” You can access a full copy here.

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