Innovative app boosts literacy and social inclusion

Author:Catherine Jewell
Position::Communications Division, WIPO

It is often said that necessity is the mother of invention. This was the case for Daniela Galindo, a young social entrepreneur from Colombia.


Her younger sister, Julis, was born with a disability that does not allow her to speak, making it extremely difficult for her to communicate with her family and the wider world – a source of great frustration for both Julis and her family. Determined to find a way to communicate with her sister and improve her quality of life, Ms. Galindo developed a software application that now promises to transform the lives of millions who live with disabilities and for whom communication is a daily challenge.

The idea for the application emerged at a family dinner when Ms. Galindo and her parents were brainstorming about ways to better communicate with Julis. “We were in a restaurant sharing ideas and my Dad sketched out what is now our user interface on a napkin,” she explains. It took two years to turn the idea into reality. When Ms. Galindo graduated from her studies in computer science and business in 2011, she set up her company, Hablando con Julis, and set about developing the app. “We initially developed the solution for my sister to resolve a family issue,” she says. “The application changed my life. I found out who my sister is, what she wants, everything about her. It has also changed her life.”

Moved by the technology’s impact on her own family, Ms. Galindo set out to make it widely available to others facing similar challenges. “Just as the software has changed my life, I want it to change the lives of others,” she says. “Communication is the basis of human development. It allows us to learn, to socialize and have friends, to study and work and play an active part in society.” Hablando con Julis is therefore a crucial tool for social inclusion.

Thanks to a grant from the leading IT specialists CISCO, which had learned about her work from an interview, this aspiration became reality. “The financial support I received from CISCO enabled me to develop Version 2 of the software and to start commercializing it,” she notes.

About the software

Hablando con Julis is a software program that makes it easier for people living with a variety of disabilities to communicate with the world around them. It is also being used as an online education tool to support literacy programs. “Our software makes it possible for anyone between the ages of 3 and 85 to learn to read and write and to express their wishes, thoughts and needs in an easy and simple way,” Ms. Galindo explains.

The application draws on a database of over 65,000 words, each of which is...

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