Symbols... in real life!

Symbols... in real life!

We know that symbol supports help make communication accessible. We also know that symbol supports are a fantastic resource for the classroom (think schedules, word walls, flash cards, etc.), but what do these communication supports look like beyond school?

For inspiration, we look to the amazing work our friends at Widgit are doing in communities across the UK. The Widgit team, creators of symbol software like Widgit Online and InPrint 3, have partnered up with community agencies, police, tourist attractions even private companies to create symbols supported materials.


Because symbols can clarify communication and support comprehension making vital information accessible. Whether you’re a child or adult, someone with a cognitive disability, reading challenge, English is not your native language or non-verbal. Whether any of these challenges are something you live with every day or temporary because of an injury or stroke, mental health crisis, panic or any other conditions. Just look at these examples to learn the difference thoughtful symbolizing can make.

Ambassador Theatre Group

To create an inclusive environment, and to enhance the first theatre experience for their younger patrons, the Ambassador Theatre Group, the world’s number one live-theatre company, has created free symbolized resources with Widgit. These include vocabulary cards, communication cards, “Going to the Theatre” overview sheets and more. These resources instill confidence for the whole theatre experience and what a specific production will be about.

Learn more about how the Ambassador Theatre Group uses symbols


Symbolized resource from the Ambassador Theatre Group

Symbol resource from the Ambassador Theatre Group

Widgit symbols used at the Ambassador Theatre


The Eden Project

The second most popular visitor attraction in the UK, the large environmental centre called the Eden Project installed accessible signage and supported display information throughout the centre. Our colleague, Iain, had the opportunity to visit the Eden Project, and he snapped some photos of these great symbol resources on location!

Notice, that the symbolized text, isn’t the same as the regular text. It’s summarized and the vocabulary simplified. Symbols are a thoughtful support to language and are used in conjunction with multiple strategies to convey meaning, for inclusion. So regardless of the literacy level in English more visitors can get more out of the displays.

Learn more about symbol supports at the Eden Project


Symbol resources from the Eden Project

Symbol resources at an exhibit at the Eden Project

Symbolized resource from the Eden Project

Symbolized resource from the Eden Project


Using Symbols to support communication in Police Custody

UK authorities recognized that a substantial percentage of those charged by police had some sort of learning or cognitive disability -- approximately 20-30% – whether because of fetal alchohol syndrome, autism, downs syndrome, dyslexia or other causes. This doesn’t even include the individuals who had problems with comprehension because English was not their first language.

The Canadian stats are probably similar. The problems generated by this are not only equity and civil rights based but also questions of safety. There are many tragic examples of where a miscommunication quickly turned a simple misunderstanding into a dangerous crisis.

So called information sheets handed out in custody can often be functionally incomprehensible for its intended audience. better understand their rights and the custody process, Widgit, Autism Hampshire, and Hampshire Police Custody partnered to create “easy read” symbol sheets. These sheets are summarized and easier to digest. In a study conducted by the University of Southampton, respondents described the symbol sheets as friendlier, simplified, easier, more to the point, more clear, user friendly, and reassuring.

Learn more about symbols in police custody


Symbol resource from Hampshire Police Custody

Original Rights and
Entitlement sheet


Widgit Rights and
Entitlement sheet

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  • Alanna Fontaine
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