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What are Blissymbols?

Blissymbols form a system of meaning-based symbols which can be used by people with severe difficulties in speaking to communicate without speech. The system has a large and flexible vocabulary and contains logical rules for expanding vocabulary and grammar. It is particularly useful for people with cerebral palsy and related physical disabilities who may find reading and spelling difficult but who may still require a system of communication that will expand beyond the more concrete levels of most pictorial symbol systems and will allow access to a linguistically flexible means of communication. For a more in-depth explanation of Blissymbols see the BCI web site.

Blissymbols in the UK

Back in the early 1970s, when members of the newly formed UK Bliss committee started to introduce and teach others about Blissymbols and their use, life was revolutionized for many people with communication disabilities and for their families and the professional teams working with them. It was the very beginning of “augmentative and alternative communication”. Today, the principles of symbol use and augmentative communication are well established and are practised in schools and therapy settings (although still a specialist area). Various other symbol systems and a range of technological communication aids have been developed. For the moment, the number of Bliss users in the UK is small, although the numbers of new child users continue to increase worldwide, especially in Scandinavia and Eastern European countries, and in developing countries. The role of Blissymbol Communication UK has been changing, gradually. It is no longer a revolutionary pioneer but a support organization providing valuable experience and information, and, potentially, input to specific project work, not only in the UK but internationally.

The role of Blissymbol Communication UK

The main aims and functions of the small BC UK organization and committee are:

  • To provide a UK “presence” for Bliss
  • To provide a contact point and a base of support for the people who use Bliss in the UK
  • To contribute to the development of new symbol vocabulary for use internationally
  • To contribute to technological solutions for the implementation of Bliss on computer systems, worldwide.

Specific members of the BC committee are actively involved in ground-breaking new project work in these areas; for example development work on a new 'Bliss Font' for computer that will allow for more effective Bliss communication electronically, worldwide, and for development of materials. Also, with Widgit Software, to reformat Bliss symbols so that they can link in as a bliss library to Widgit software such as Writing with Symbols.

All members provide input periodically to working parties, for example to the International Symbol Development Panel, which, on an ongoing basis, develops new symbol vocabulary to meet the communication needs of users in different cultures, in a constantly changing world.

The BC UK committee as a whole provides support for this work - practically, by facilitating annual meetings (and project subgroup meetings as required), and in the background by participating in discussions, contributing ideas/being a sounding board for new ideas, and providing support in a variety of ways. All participation in BC UK Committee and Symbol Development work is voluntary.

For the year 2010, the BC UK committee's key development targets are:

  • To move forward the Bliss Font project (first steps: circulate the proposal for funding)
  • To develop the Bliss library for Widgit software
  • To conduct a survey and establish a database of Bliss users in the UK
  • To develop the Bliss UK web site, and to develop information materials to put on it (ongoing)
  • To continue with input to Blissymbolics Communication International (BCI) and the network of 'sister' affiliate groups around the world, and to the work of the International Symbol Development Panel.
  • To provide awareness raising and training in Bliss if requested
  • To promote awareness of the newly revised Fundamental Rules of Bliss document

Blissymbol Communication (UK)

c/o ACE Centre
92 Windmill Road
Oxford OX3 7DR
Telephone: +44 7811 452 444
E-mail: info (at)

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