• Communication symbols vary in type, are culturally nuanced and can be linked to any number of languages

  • They can be classified by a range of categories or just linked to a label

  • They range in size, format and design

  • There needs to be some way to harmonise and standadise them so that they can be interchangeable between users, across devices and the internet (possibly without the use of text translations or with telegraphic text to natural language in the future). 


An AAC Symbol Set Repository

  • Allow the addition of symbols designed and adapted to suit skills, tasks, settings, cultures, environments and different languages.

  • Needs to offer quick search and browse capabilties.

  • Support placement on a communication board with text based concepts and different types of categories 

    • "Semantic–syntactic displays organize vocabulary based on parts of speech and syntactic framework. 

    • Taxonomic displays group symbols according to semantic category (e.g., people, places, feelings, actions).

    • Activity grid displays (also known as "schematic grid layouts") organize vocabulary by event schemes, routines, or activities." ASHA


Sample Communication Board from CoughDrop

sample communication board

Classification by Symbol Label 

  • Open Symbols - free to access with symbols developed under a Creative Commons licence. 

    • Automatically generated

    • Link to original authors

    • Offer many choices 

Open symbols list for happy symbol


  • Automatic linking of different symbol sets by concept

  • Offer instant download and multilingual options

  • Many to many representations of concepts and symbols

  • Maintain updates from different symbol sets and user created symbols

  • Offer core/fringe vocabularies, parts of speech, definitions, categories, language and symbol type (colour/black and white)  via filters

  • Multilingual communication board creation (separate work)

global symbols

Initial Ideas

  • Use ConceptNet to map lexical terms or symbol labels

  • Use WordNet for the definitions and parts of speech

  • Use Word frequency data sets for core vocabularies. 


Pros and Cons

  • ConceptNet provides synonyms and categories (via other concepts such as feelings, animals etc, languages and antonyms 

  • WordNet provides many word meanings for one lexical entry and lists of parts of speech 

  • There are many different word frequency lists

  • But what about accuracy?

  • Frequency of use may not be the same as Core! 

  • Do we need antonyms and sentences as examples of concepts? 

  • Can we get rid of the symbol categories and just have concept categories?

  • Can we leave out gender if the symbol is visible & as in some languages the lexical entry is different?