Co-founding an app and web development company wasn’t the most obvious career path for Rebecca Bright to follow when she completed her speech pathology studies at La Trobe.
But after working in the public health system in Melbourne and London, and later in private practice, she recognised a need for cutting-edge technology to support people with speech difficulties.
“I realised that the communication aids that were available at that time weren’t using the latest technology,” Rebecca said. “I was keen to develop a solution which would use the advances of mobile technology to ensure that the communication aids were attractive to the young adults that I worked with.”
And so Rebecca and her co-founder Swapnil Gadgil started Therapy Box, their London-based business specialising in communication and therapy apps for people of all ages and abilities.
Combining Rebecca’s speech pathology expertise with Swapnil’s experience in telecommunications and e-commerce, they aimed to apply the latest app innovations to meet the needs of people with speech difficulties arising from cerebral palsy, motor neurone disease, autism, brain injuries and other neurological disorders.
The first app they created was called Predictable, which used text-to-speech and predictive text technology to give voices to people unable to use their own. Later came Scene & Heard, which became the first augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) app to make use of the functional capabilities of an iPad. Users create interactive visual scenes with the app, allowing them to communicate with greater context.
Therapy Box continued to produce an impressive collection of innovative apps, and have received numerous prestigious awards for their efforts. In 2014, the company was awarded a Queen’s Award for Enterprise (Innovation) in recognition of the life-changing impact its apps have had on people’s lives.
The royal seal of approval continued in 2016, when Queen Elizabeth II awarded Rebecca an MBE in the New Year Honour’s List.
“It was a complete surprise to be named an MBE,” Rebecca said. “I was certainly very humbled by the honour and thankful for being nominated,” she said.
Rebecca said she was grateful for the encouragement she received at the very beginning of her career while studying at La Trobe.
“The lecturers in the speech pathology degree provided me with the foundations for my career,” Rebecca said. “It’s not uncommon for me to think back to key lecturers at different times both during my clinical practice but also my career now running Therapy Box,” she said.
“One of the key people who helped me was Professor Sheena Reilly, who supervised my fourth year project and suggested that we present it at a national conference. When someone has that confidence in you early in your career, it can really make a difference.”