Learning / literacy

Bristol inventor creates 21st century letters

By will charley, Monday Jul 29, 2019

Adriene Layne has created two communication devices for those who are unable to type or write.

The 49-year-old inventor, who was born in Trinidad and Tobago and later moved to the UK, has created the Voice Letter and the Record and Learn, the first products from her company, Yello Butterfly Communications.

The Voice Letter is postcard sized and allows 60 seconds of audio to be recorded. It can then be posted, with the receiver being able to press a second button to listen to the audio, wipe the original message and record their own before sending it back. Adriene describes it as a “21st century letter”.

The Voice Letter –  in bright colours for those with learning difficulties

The Voice Letter bridges the gap between the literate and the illiterate world, giving those with “street skills” more “book skills”.

Adriene hopes it will also be a device for social change, saying that its purpose is in “supporting freedom of inclusion for all, despite their language, their learning, their age”.

The device has been successfully trialled at HMP Horfields where several fathers who struggled to write were given Voice Letters so that they could communicate more with their children.

50 tamper-proof units were ordered by the prison and Adriene is now on the Ministry of Justice’s procurement list. She believes the device could make a real difference if rolled out across the UK prison system.

Adriene has also created Record and Learn, which is the same size as the Voice Letter.  A teacher can use it to record two minutes of audio, which a student can then listen to.

Whereas Adriene’s first device is about inclusivity, the second is about education – especially for those with learning difficulties.

Easy to use, Record and Learn is for education

The latter has been tested at schools and five children at Summerhill Academy in east Bristol were given the devices and tested on their seven times table before and after using it.

The children improved having used the device and all of the children, when asked if they thought they would’ve done so well without the recorder, said no.

As with the Voice Letter, Adriene wants the devices to be rolled out nationwide, believing it to be a “learning buddy that can help every aspect of learning.”

The motivations of the inventor are deeply personal. Having moved to Bristol 28 years ago, Adriene became saddened when her late mother stopped writing letters to her, due to an illness giving her shaky hands and poor eyesight. Adriene sought a solution, creating the Voice Letter.

Adriene Laynes devices are both designed with personal experience in mind

Adriene’s experience working at the council has also driven her inventions. She met her partner, a Jamaican immigrant, who was pre-literate and could not read or write and soon found this to be common among some groups.

She came third at an inventing competition that UWE Bristol entered her into and she won the University of Bristol SPARK competition because of the potential socio-economic benefits of the devices – they could help people into employment and break down social barriers.

“It’s not about fame and fortune,” says Adriene. “I am a philanthropist. That’s what I do, I help people.”

To learn more, go to www.record-and-learn.com

Read more: How to get back into education as an adult


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