Click and Talk: the Webex project uniting people with disabilities

A groundbreaking scheme in Catalonia, Spain, is improving the emotional wellbeing of disabled people.
Click and Talk: the Webex project uniting people with disabilities

Disabled people face exclusion not only because of their disabilities but also because they cannot always use the technology tools that others take for granted. Now, though, a scheme in Spain is boosting contacts—to the delight of users and the relatives and caregivers who look after them.

The May 2023 launch of Click and Talk, which uses specially adapted Cisco Desk Series terminals to help disabled people stay in touch, brought joy to those cared for by the Urgell County Association for Disabled Help (Associació Comarcal Urgell d'Ajuda al Minusvàlid or ACUDAM).

“They were really excited to be able to connect and see each other,” says Esther Ros, the director of occupational therapy services at ACUDAM, a 50-year-old association that cares for more than 160 people with disabilities in the Catalan County of Pla d’Urgell and nearby.

Now, with Click and Talk being used on a regular basis, people with Cisco terminals have become stars in their little community. “There’s one guy who has half the home cramming into his room when he does a session,” says Irene Solsona, ACUDAM’s director of care homes.

Click and Talk is designed to improve the emotional wellbeing of 47-to-77-year-olds that benefit from ACUDAM’s services in their own households and in two care homes that the association runs in Mollerussa, the capital of Pla d’Urgell. 

The older generation can find it hard to use digital technologies such as mobile phones, says Solsona. Through Click and Talk, “The aim is for people to be empowered to decide what they want to do with their lives,” she says.

The project came about after Mollerussa’s mayor, Marc Solsona Aixalà, visited the Cisco Innovation Center in Barcelona and was shown a demonstration of the Deleting Loneliness scheme to help elderly citizens stay in touch via Webex.

“The mayor said, ‘I’ve got an initiative called SmartLab Mollerussa and I’d like to pilot something like this,’” recalls Xavier Azemar, the head of the Barcelona Innovation Center. “We told him we would be delighted. The council then got in touch with ACUDAM.”

This was in January 2023. By February, the Innovation Center team was adapting the Webex Deleting Loneliness interface for Click and Talk, and Datacom Global, a Barcelona-based Cisco partner, was on board to provide the hardware, connectivity, support, and metrics for the project.

After securing finance from Cisco Spain’s Country Digital Acceleration Program, the first challenge facing the project was to come up with a Cisco screen design that would be easy for the ACUDAM users, not all of whom have good reading skills.

To address this, the Click and Talk interface has no writing at all—just images of people that users can connect to. Another issue, once nine Click and Talk Cisco screens had been installed in users’ homes and the two ACUDAM centers, was connectivity.

“It seems obvious, but it turned out to be really important,” says Solsona. “We had to improve the connectivity at our care homes.”

While Datacom Global took care of connection issues, ACUDAM encouraged users and their families to install the Webex app and use it regularly. “It was quite hard with the families of the people who live at home,” Solsona notes. “It took them a while to work out how they would use it.”

Because of this, only three families ended up installing Click and Talk at home. But the results have been impressive, says Solsona.

After a couple of months, Click and Talk had become a fixture at ACUDAM, with people gathering round the Cisco screens to watch colleagues and caregivers streaming live footage from basketball games, concerts, and visits to the seaside.

“Being able to connect provides emotional wellbeing,” says Ros. “Sometimes they will connect [via Webex] to speak to each other even when they are in the same center. Families also appreciate the ability to have video calls with their relatives in the care homes. This wasn’t an option before.”

Perhaps the biggest vote of confidence has come from a user who suggested using Click and Talk to speak to people in care homes outside of ACUDAM. “He said it would be great if you could connect to people anywhere in the province of Lleida, or anywhere in Catalonia,” says Solsona.

With the pilot now complete and Click and Talk being offered on a commercial basis, wider use of the tool seems likely—and not just in Spain.

In January 2024, Cisco revealed talks were underway to carry out Click and Talk pilots in collaboration with other Cisco Innovation Labs, such as one the in UK, in a project for old-age pensioners in England—helping more people to enjoy fuller and happier lives.