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Posted on March 5, 2017

We took to the streets of Bristol again last month, with Hannah, the newest member of our Marketing team. Using our Grid Pad Pro 11, Hannah undertook the challenge of ordering coffee for the team in a local café without using her voice. Find out how she got on, in her own words.

Hannah’s coffee challenge

After joining Smartbox in January this year, I’d heard lots about the ‘coffee challenge’. At first I thought it might some kind of caffeine initiation to introduce me to the rituals of my new work place. Luckily for me that wasn’t the case.

The challenge involved a trip to a local café, where I would be tasked with ordering a round of hot drinks for my team using one of our communication aids. Sounds simple enough, but I soon realised there is quite a lot to consider.

First of all, I needed to get to grips with the software – Grid 3. It comes with a number of ready made grid sets, which are tailored to suit a diverse group of users with varying levels of literacy. Example grids include Symbol Talkers, WordPower 100 and Fast Talker 3 – but I decided to make my own grid from scratch specially made for ordering coffee!

My grid set

I started with some greetings, simple replies and quantities, then set about creating jump cells to take me to various drinks grids. I made a grid for coffees, teas and cold drinks – all accessed via jump cells on my home grid. I then practiced putting simple sentences together, soon realising that I needed a lot more words on my homepage. I continued to test and tweak my grids and was given some helpful tips from colleagues about setting phonetic pronunciation for certain words, and making sure to add a keyboard grid to type out any words that weren’t in my grid set.


Download Hannah’s Coffee Challenge

By this point I was confident I had every drink combination I could think of, so I just needed to choose my device. I decided to use a Grid Pad Pro 11, because it had an in-built speaker.

Ordering my drinks

Now for the moment of truth. I was ready with my Grid Pad, had tested the volume and the team had given me their orders. There was a slight moment of panic when I realised I didn’t have an almond milk cell and hadn’t practised using the keyboard function.

There wasn’t much time to worry about that though, as I was soon face to face with the barista. I smiled and stuck to the plan using my pre-planned intro to get things started: “Hello, please can I order some drinks”.

It helped to have an opening sentence lined up and I then went straight into the easy part of the order: “2 hot chocolates please”. Next came the tricky bit. I typed out the first part of the sentence, ‘1’, then went to my keyboard for ‘almond’ and back to my grid for ‘decaf latte’. It didn’t come out very clearly so I instinctively resorted to body language to gage if I’d been understood. Without thinking I gave a nod to acknowledge the order rather than using the device to speak.

I made the final part of the order and asked for a receipt, relieved that I’d made it through without any major hiccups!

The coffee challenge has certainly given me a better understanding of just how challenging using alternative communication in real-life situations is. Even with plenty of practice and most of the words I needed, constructing a sentence under pressure was difficult and my instinct to use body language and opt for the quickest sentence was hard to overcome.

If you fancy having a go at using Grid 3 to create your own grid, you can download your free 60 day trial here. My grid set is also available in online grids, just search for ‘Hannah’s Coffee Challenge’.

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