Welsh Tech Startup Launches Covid App to Support Learning Difficulties


Welsh tech startup Starfish Labs, based at Aberystwyth University’s Innovation Centre, has launched the first of a suite of apps to support people with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) through the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic.

The ‘COVID-19 – Staying Safe’ app features simple instructions for wearing different types of face coverings, hand washing, sanitising and information about Covid-19 and signposting to current regional guidance, using cartoons, photographs, videos and simple text instructions along with Makaton symbols.1

Part funded by the Welsh Government rapid response Covid-19 RD&I scheme, it is unique in allowing carers, parents or teachers to customise the content using simple steps to make it relevant to the user’s own environment and to the changing national, regional and local lockdown rules.

Content can be viewed and created in Welsh or English, and has been developed in conjunction with Derwen College – an Ofsted Outstanding rated special educational needs college.

Starfish Labs Director, Neil Bevan, said,

“As the Covid-19 pandemic is still very much with us for the foreseeable future, the ongoing changes in lockdown rules and guidance in different parts of the UK are confusing for many people, and especially those with learning difficulties.”

He continued,

“So much of the existing guidance doesn’t really mean very much to someone who is Autistic or who doesn’t recognise that generic images of hand washing or face coverings have any meaning to their own life. We recognised that a suite of apps could help to simplify the guidance – breaking instructions down into understandable short sequences – and the ability for people to use their own photos or videos of their own masks, their own washbasin, and their own local environment would make the rules much more relevant.”

We are grateful to Welsh Government for supporting Starfish Labs in funding the development of the apps, and we’re proud to be developing them in Welsh, as well as English, to support vulnerable people in our communities in their own language.”

The suite of apps – also covering social distancing and staying healthy during the pandemic and beyond, is being developed for Apple and Android devices and will be available through the App Store and Google Play.

Starfish Labs is also developing versions of the apps in other languages, such as Urdu and Punjabi.

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