Widgit Symbols Development Project
A brief history of Widgit Symbols and how they have
Symbols have been used to support the face to face communication of
those with little or no speech since the early 1970's. More recently
symbols have been used to support the development of literacy skills
and the use of text by those whose experience of text is limited.
Rebus Symbols were first devised as part of the Peabody Rebus Reading
Program in the USA in the 1960's. They were further developed in a UK
school by Judy Van Oosterom and Kathleen Devereux to make them more
applicable as a support for language development with pupils who had
moderate or severe learning disabilities. This set was first published
in booklet form by LDA in the UK.
With the advent of symbol software, the development of the Rebus Symbols
was gradually taken over by Widgit Software, with Judy's support and
with contributions from many practitioners and organisations. Until
the advent of the software the number of symbols was about 600. New
libraries of symbols were brought out on a regular basis and added to
as a result of requests from users of the symbols and professionals
supporting symbol users. At the start of the Widgit Symbol Development
Project, in October 2000 there were 6000 symbols. The growth of the
symbol set has therefore been extensive but it has not always been consistent.
The style of the symbol drawing has also changed over the years. These
factors led Widgit Software to set up the Widgit Symbol Development Project
to review the whole symbol set with a view to consistency. The new Symbol
set will be known as the Widgit Symbol Set (previously know as Widgit Rebus), to ensure that its
identity is clear, especially as the extent of the use is growing internationally.
We are grateful to Judy van Oosterom for her continued support for these
developments from her original work.
This report describes how the project was set up and described the
basic structure of the new Widgit symbol set.