Chicago Public Library partners with Infiniteach to offer an app for their patrons with autism

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SensoryCPL app launch!

Katie Hench, co-founder, Infiniteach

Thanks to critical initiatives like the Targeting Autism program, Illinois libraries are playing a pivotal role in developing autism inclusive communities. I’m excited to share with you the resources and supports that Chicago Public Library has developed to ensure their space is welcoming and inclusive for all on the autism spectrum.

Chicago Public Library, in partnership with autism app developer Infiniteach, recently launched SensoryCPL, an app that supports individuals with autism and their families when visiting the Thomas Hughes Children’s Library in downtown Chicago.

The app includes text and video social narratives, a customizable visual schedule, an emotions chart, and more. It can be used as a pre-visit planning tool or as a resource to help during a visit. Check it out here:

Liz McChesney, Director of Children’s Services and Family Engagement shared her thoughts on what the app means to CPL:

We are so excited to roll out the Infiniteach app for guests of the Chicago Public Library.  As a public library we strive to reduce barriers, provide a welcoming haven of learning and fun and be a beacon of joy for the people of Chicago.  Infiniteach helps us achieve all those goals and we are excited to welcome families with a child on the spectrum through the easy use of the Infiniteach app. 

Apps like this can be a great tool to welcome, engage, encourage, and support guests with disabilities within your library. But adopting a new technology initiative can feel daunting, whether you are a small system with a limited budget or a large system with many layers to the approval process.

So what was our process for getting the app launched?

The partnership: Chicago Public Library and Infiniteach partnered together to develop SensoryCPL. Team CPL was responsible for sharing assets, and Infiniteach provided content and technical development.

Timeline: We had a 4 month timeline, and throughout that time, we conferenced every other week to discuss progress and questions. We actually finished up development ahead of schedule – a rarity in the app development world!

Pricing: Rather than building this app as a custom app, which can easily cost 6 figures, CPL’s app joined Infiniteach’s autism accessibility platform. The annual licensing fee is $2700 and, to get started, there was a one-time set-up and development fee that varies based on the level of customization.

 The app development process: The first step to developing the app was to assess the physical space and the experience of visiting the library. While talking about the experience, we specifically focused on sensory components, such as bright lights or the maze of getting to the children’s library, as well as behavior expectations, such as using shared materials or what happens if a desired book isn’t available.

After developing the content, we focused on collecting the assets needed to visually share that content in the app. These assets included photos of the space, a floor plan, and CPL branding materials.

Once the content and assets were ready, we began testing. Both teams were able to test the app before it was launched into the app stores. After finding and squashing a few bugs (technical, not live!), the apps were ready to launch.

The launch: The apps officially launched in the App Store and Google Play on August 29. We are currently in what we call the ‘soft launch’ phase, where the app is available to be downloaded for free, but we are selectively sharing it. This allows us to get feedback from key users, check for bugs, and make any updates and improvements before embarking on an official marketing campaign.

We cannot wait to see and hear the impact this app, in conjunction with all of CPL’s accessibility efforts, will have on the families, educators, therapists, and individuals who are part of the developmental disability community.

Please feel free to share any feedback and ideas you have (email Katie at khench@infiniteach.com), and on behalf of the autism community, thank you to Targeting Autism for helping create inclusive communities.

 

 

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