Entrepreneurial Swinnow dad nominated for national diversity award

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Dad Richard is pictured with Rheuben.

By John Baron

An inspirational Swinnow dad who launched a disability friendly app giving non-verbal people the ability to text by using symbols has been shortlisted for a prestigious national award.

Richard Keane has been nominated as an Entrepreneur of Excellence at the National Diversity Awards, which highlight the country’s most inspirational and selfless people. This year more than from 72,000 people were nominated.

As previously reported by WLD, Richard’s autistic seven-year-old son Rheuben is non-verbal and his preferred way of communicating is to point to symbols printed on paper, for example the symbol of a cup if he wants a drink.

richard and Rheuben symbolsend
Richard and son Rheuben. Photo: Shelley Montovani

But dad Richard, 35, said there was no way of communicating with him if he was not in the same room and so had the idea of setting up an app, called Symbolsend, which allows him to do that.

The app, which launched last year, is relevant to a large range of people, including non-verbal people on the autistic spectrum, selective mutism, stroke victims and more.

Welcoming the nomination, Richard said:

“I am incredibly shocked to be shortlisted for the Entrepreneur of Excellence category. I really wasn’t expecting it and there were so many other nominees all doing fantastic work. I’m very proud in what we have achieved so far and I hope that getting this far in the awards will only go to highlight our vision of where SymbolSend can go.

“Since launch we have had interest from speech and language professionals who would like to use the apps for future updates. We are also looking at raising investment in order further develop the app.”

Richard, a chef by trade, is now a carer for Rheuben, who was diagnosed with autism when he was just two years old. He added: “I started Symbolsend because of Rheuben. We all want what’s best for our children but I am not able to find out his wants and needs while away from him. I tried to find a solution to tackle this but soon realised there wasn’t one out there so I decided to create it.

“Symbolsend is the first solution in the world that we know of that allows the remote use of universally used symbols. This means that non-verbal individuals can now communicate with their social and healthcare circles no matter where they are.”

Richard Keane symbolsend
Richard Keane and son, Rheuben. Photo: Shelley Montovani

Paul Sesay, founder and CEO of the National Diversity Awards, added:

“What an incredible year it has been for nominations. We received more than ever before showcasing the UK’s role models in all their glory.

“Producing this shortlist was extremely difficult due to the vast amount of invaluable work being carried out. The UK has truly embraced the spirit of The National Diversity Awards by uniting through adversity to create a host of incredible initiatives. The profound impact made by all our nominees is life changing, and I feel humbled to know that so much goodness is all around us.

“After weeks of deliberating and thousands of heartfelt testimonials later, I am delighted to finally present to you the best of British Diversity. Congratulations to all of our shortlisted nominees, it is an honour to recognise your fearlessness, resilience and humanitarian efforts with the rest of the world. Let’s continue the fight for justice, unity and equality for all.”

The awards ceremony will be held at Liverpool Cathedral in September. View the full list of nominees here.

How does Symbolsend work?

Using the universally recognised PECS system of symbols, Symbolsend provides a safe platform for people to communicate the way they want to, breaking down barriers and bringing people closer together. 

Users simply select the symbols, press send, and the person at the other end receives the message in text form. They then reply by text which is converted and arrives with the other person in symbol form. 

Where do I get the app?

The app is available via The App Store for android and iPhone. There’s a free month’s trial and then it’s just £2 a month for two users and £5 per month for up to eight additional users. 

More information can be found on the Symbolsend website.

You can also find it on Twitter and Facebook.

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