Image courtesy Divyanka Kapoor.
Blossom, a forthcoming phone app from Divyanka Kapoor ’21, aims to mitigate any social and emotional challenges presented to neurodiverse families and individuals. Blossom is designed to connect neurodiverse families, to help initiate long-lasting bonds based on interests, age and sensitivities. Divyanka, a Master of Design Engineering graduate, earned a Seed for Change grant from the Mittal Institute to aid in the development of the Blossom app. Together with partners in India and the USA, Divyanka is in the development process of the app and plans to launch it on April 2, which is World Autism Awareness Day. Learn more about her app in her own words below.
Divyanka Kapoor, a Seed for Change grant recipient.
Families with neurodiverse individuals undergo various challenges, of which a substantive percentage is because of lack of social acceptance, understanding and opportunities. Families face financial, emotional, mental and social hardships, often resulting in estranged relationships with extended families and friends, isolation from neighbors and friend circles in routine recreational and leisure activities and a limited, sometimes non-existent support system. This situation is much more pronounced for individuals who are autistic – they are often misunderstood and their inability to conform to standards of social communication leads to chronic loneliness, isolation and bullying. To solve these challenges, my proposed solution is an app that could nable a local community of autism-for-autism support network. My vision is to create a social community app for parents of autistic children and autistic adults to enable localized interactions, access to opportunities between the Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) community, events for and within the ASD community and a resource pool of recommendations and ratings of local providers. The aim of this solution is to create a product so that no neurodivergent family should have to face isolation and loneliness anymore.
THE BLOSSOM APP AND SEED FOR CHANGE COMPETITION
During the Seed for Change Competition held in May 2021, Blossom was a conceptual idea that was researched, designed and a prototype was tested with autistic individuals. Over the last seven months, we made tremendous strides in getting this vision into an Android app, which will soon be launched. Some of these highlights include growing our team from one to four people, all of whom are women. The MVP of the android app is near completion and will be launched this month for testing with a small community of autistic individuals. The app comprises key functionalities for autistic adults and their parents to build a community of individuals going through a similar journey. The app is still under development and will be going through many more enhancements before we begin testing with users.
Key Features of the App
Welcome Screen: The welcome screen will allow the users to orient themselves with the goalof the app and give a preview of the features We also seek location and notification permissions at the end of the welcome screen.
Sign-up: The sign-up screen currently accepts only phone numbers, but we will soon expand this to other means of signing-up. On entering the mobile number, users receive a message with an OTP, which they can then use to sign-in on the app.
Profile Set-up: The set-up screen gathers the requisite information of the user and/or their child. Catering to all autistic parents, autistic adults and non-autistic parents, Blossom’s sign-up screen is designed to be both inclusive and accessible.
Accessibility & Customization: To allow maximum flexibility and accessibility, Blossom will come with pre-defined themes in both light mode and dark mode. We are also working on the capability for users to customize the background, foreground, font and spacing within the app to make it usable for people with differing sensitivities.
Circle of Community: Upon logging in, users can see parents of autistic children and autistic adults in their neighborhood. They can view this information in two different view formats: a gallery view and a circle. We are still working through the design/development of these components). Users can filter results using different parameters to reach out to community members with similar interests, sensitivities, etc.
Resources: Users can view a list of available resources and services catering to autistic individuals near their neighborhood. These resources will be pre-populated in the app and users can also add new resources. With the current functionality, anyone adding a new resource will generate a ticket, which we will receive in our admin portal. Our team will be able to check and verify the resource before adding it in the app. Users will also be able to leave ratings and feedback for an existing resource.
Events / Invitations: To foster greater offline interactions (a challenge currently facing the community), the app also features an events page where community members can invite each other for special occasions and large gatherings. The event invite features sensitivity-based fields, as well, to ensure maximum accommodation.
Chat: The app allows users to connect with each other through messages. We will be adding an option to allow voice recording as well as video calling to cater to both spoken and non-spoken autistics.
Settings & Notifications: The user can control their account, privacy, and accessibility settings from the settings page.
We recently finished development of the first version of our website and will be gathering early adopters for our app. We are not yet live with the site, but we are working on building our social media pages to drive marketing and advertising efforts. Placeholders are below:
Instagram handle: https://www.instagram.com/blossoms.community/
Facebook handle: https://fb.me/blossoms.community
We are developing partnerships with organizations in India and the US to help in the roll-out of Blossom.
We continue to stay actively engaged with the neurodiverse community, families of autistic individuals, NGOs, voluntary actions groups, doctors, researchers and professors to incorporate their guidance and feedback into our development cycle.