Rebecca Bright, a 39-year-old mother of two, was working as a speech and language therapist when she went to visit a patient who had lost the ability to talk due to her progressive neurological condition.
“I took in a small PDA type device that she could use to support her communication,” Rebecca said. “She really was not interested. She picked up her regular phone and typed F*** off. It was then that I knew we had to find a solution which would better suit people who needed alternative and augmentative communication disorders; using mobile phones and tablets.”
And so Bright founded Therapy Box, a specialist technology company that develop mobile and web-based products related to speech and language.
Products include everything from aids to help people who have lost their voice due to MND/ALS through to diagnostic tools to help identify children with language disorders. Therapy Box works closely with universities and clinicians to design products which will make a difference for people with communication disabilities, which can often be harder to diagnose.
“We feel that we have changed the world a little bit for people with significant communication disabilities by helping them be able to communicate,” Bright said. “Our innovation makes a big difference to the people who have communication disabilities, but also to their families.”
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Bright lists her company’s competitors as AssistiveWare create an app called Proloquo2Go, but says she is confident Therapy Box stands its ground in the market.
“We differ from the traditional software developers who create augmentative communication products,” Bright said, “in that we are able to work in an agile manner, releasing updates to our apps rather than shipping boxed software updates.
“We work in a tight loop with our customers, so we can respond to their needs and make the product better quickly.”
The company, which is based in London and was launched eight years ago, has more than 200,000 people around the world who use its apps.
“They rely on our apps to be able to share their basic needs; to be able to participate in conversation with their grandchildren and to ask for help.”
The apps have had positive reviews from their customers, with feedback from one user reading: “I have difficulty in speaking in general because of my brain injury. This works wonders taking away my frustration to get my point across,” while another reads: “I have MS and suffer from paralyzed vocal folds. This app is essential as it means during periods when I can’t speak I’ve got some way of communicating with family etc.”
One of Bright’s earliest challenges was addressing barriers related to the U.K.’s National Health Service (NHS) in adopting mobile apps as a viable solution for patients.
“This meant we had to defer to more traditional sales methods such as visiting hospitals one by one to show them our app on our iPads. This, while not very cost effective for an app company, has paid dividends in having a very stable base of early adopting clinicians and patients, who still use the app 8 years later.”
Therapy Box now employs between 12 and 15 people, depending on seasons, and the company had a turnover of £1.34 million ($1.69 million) last year.
The company is now working on machine learning capabilities and eye-tracking technology.
“We are looking to harness the rapid improvements in mobile technology to help people with difficulties related to speech and language.”
Bright’s ultimate goal is to make it easier and more affordable to diagnose people with communication disabilities using technology.
“This will support clinicians with their decision making and save time and money for health services. It will also help children and adults access services and support quicker, which can make a real difference for them!”