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Estero High student creates apps to help people with disabilities


BONITA SPRINGS, Fla. Two Estero High School students who recently created a group for special needs students are taking their mission to the digital realm.

John Ciocca formed a local chapter of “Fantastic Friends” in November along with his brother, Christian, who has Down syndrome. John has since created apps called “My Voice” and “You Belong” to help people with disabilities lead more active social lives.

“It’s neat that he’s taken the field that he wants to really be in and is using it to help not only his brother, but helping countless other people with it,” said John Ciocca Sr., John’s father.

“My Voice” is specifically designed to help people who are nonverbal communicate with others.

“‘My Voice’ is a digital version of [a] PECS [Picture Exchange Communication System] book, which we design based on his experience with special needs kids,” John Ciocca Jr. said. “The book you’d have to line up, now you can easily type up the sentence or hit photos if (you) don’t know how to exactly type out a word.”

Ciocca’s latest creation, “You Belong,” is aimed at becoming the Facebook of the special needs community. It helps people with special needs, as well as their families, connect in a safe, online environment.

“I’d like to keep building on top of it to really make it a solid social network like other ones and keep adding features that make it better and better,” John Ciocca Jr. said.

“My Voice” and “You Belong” are both available on the iTunes app store.