Boston, MA, November 09, 2023 This month, the greater Boston area has advanced in inclusivity with the introduction of communication boards at twenty-eight locations. Led by Smarty Symbols, the “All Voices, Any Place – Boston 2023 Edition” initiative is designed to make public spaces welcoming for non-speaking individuals, enhance early intervention awareness, and foster a sense of community and communication for everyone.
Communication boards are essential visual tools that allow non-speaking children and adults to express themselves by pointing to symbols or images. These boards are particularly beneficial for individuals with speech or language differences, autistic individuals, or those with communication disorders, as they promote independence and community interaction.
Spearheaded by Barbara Fernandes, a Brazilian-American immigrant and the CEO of Smarty Symbols, this initiative introduces 24 bilingual boards—three of which include Portuguese—directly supporting Boston’s significant Brazilian population. This marks the debut of public communication boards in Portuguese within the United States, creating cultural and linguistic connections. “To integrate our native language into Boston’s communal fabric is deeply gratifying,” says Barbara Fernandes. “These boards stand as symbols of hope and connection for Portuguese speakers, honoring our collective human journey.”
The bilingual boards underscore Smarty Symbols’ responsive approach to community needs, aligning with the company’s philosophy of empowering individuals through communication.
Boston, honored to host the American Speech-Language and Hearing Convention, has become the initial city to embrace the “All Voices, Any Place – Boston 2023 Edition” initiative. Recognizing the convention as an opportune moment, Smarty Symbols aimed to establish a lasting legacy of communication accessibility that would continue beyond the event.
The initiative, while envisioned and championed by Fernandes, has been bolstered by the contributions of 22 other speech-language pathologists and organizations who share the vision of creating more inclusive spaces in the Greater Boston area. “This is a collective endeavor, where shared expertise and compassion come together to make a lasting impact in this community,” Fernandes notes.
“Communication is at the heart of community, and these boards are a testament to a commitment to ensuring every voice is acknowledged,” says Barbara Fernandes. “These communication boards are not just tools; they are invitations to connect, participate, and be heard. When we include other languages to each board, we validate the importance that all belong in their communities.”
The beneficiaries of this initiative had the autonomy to choose the languages featured on their boards to best mirror their community’s demographics. Among the recipients are the Newton Early Childhood Program, Funway Park in Tewksbury, the Boston Zoo, and Blackstone Elementary. A comprehensive list of locations is accessible via the Smarty Symbols website. These particular sites were selected for their pivotal role in the lives of children and families, ensuring representation and support for an array of linguistic backgrounds.
“We are so lucky to have this amazing tool for all of our kids and families. The kids came over to start looking at it and noticing the symbols and words as soon as I stopped drilling! The addition of the board to our upper playground, which is used by our youngest learners and all the families in the neighborhood, helps us send the message that we welcome everyone here at the Bradley School.” – Ben Russell, Inclusion Specialist and Recipient of a Communication Board
Each board is meticulously designed to be both functional and representative, featuring icons from the diverse Smarty Symbols library that reflect a wide array of backgrounds and abilities.
Smarty Symbols has been at the forefront of creating inclusive educational tools since its inception, with a vast library of over 60,000 diverse and inclusive symbols. These visuals have been instrumental in educational settings, therapy sessions, and family homes, breaking down communication barriers and fostering inclusive connections.
For more details about the bilingual communication boards and their role in promoting cultural inclusivity in Boston, please visit www.smartysymbols.com or contact [email protected].
About Smarty Symbols: Under the innovative leadership of Barbara Fernandes, Smarty Symbols has redefined communication and education support tools by providing a symbol library that mirrors the diversity of our world. The company has been instrumental in creating visuals that represent individuals of all backgrounds, supporting the belief that every voice deserves to be heard and included. Smarty Symbols has streamlined the production of custom communication boards with hundreds of boards installed around the country. Barbara’s journey as a speech-language pathologist and entrepreneur has been marked by her passion for inclusivity and innovation, earning her recognition and accolades, including a SBIR grant from the National Institutes of Health.