In Egypt, many of the hearing-impaired persons suffer from illiteracy, low income and poor attainment in education and employment. In addition, they live in isolation from the rest of society due to their disability.
Towards a solution
Tawasol was launched in 2015 by “Khalifa Computer Group” (KCG), an Egyptian family-owned IT company, upon identifying the challenges facing persons with hearing impairment in Egypt. The company decided to adopt a strategy to build an infrastructure that can aid those with hearing disability in their paths to education, employment, and breaking the barrier of communication with society. KCG in collaboration with the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology (MCIT) and the Ministry of Education (MOE) developed a software which aims to improve quality of life for people with disabilities by using ICTs to facilitate access to information and knowledge, boost interaction with the community and increase opportunities for employment. Thus, Tawasol was designed as computer software for disabled students, their teachers, and family members to enhance communication between each other and the society.
However, during its development, the KCG team faced a numbers of challenges that prevented it from adopting standard tools used in developed countries which include: 1) The Egyptian Sign language for the hearing-impaired is not unified and is different from the American or European sign language, 2) A large number of the Deaf in Egypt are illiterate and 3) in spite of a government law which stipulates a quota for hiring people with disabilities in private companies and government offices at 5%, the law is not applied.
Thus, KCG team developed a new strategy for building an infrastructure of assistive technology tools suitable for the Egyptian environment and hearing-impaired people. The research has led to the development of four components:
- Development of a Unified Arabic Academic Sign Language Dictionary which includes over 2,500 words. This is provided through a digital video and images explaining each word.
- Development of a Reader for hearing-impaired persons, an Arabic to sign language translator- this unique product translates Arabic paragraphs in to sign images that are identified in the dictionary
- Development of e-learning course- this course helps the hearing-impaired individuals in reading the Arabic alphabets and forming words and sentences.
So far, the solution has achieved the followings:
- The Ministry of Education in Egypt approved the project and has distributed The Cloud version of Tawasol system (which includes the above) to over 200 schools for the hearing-impaired in Egypt 2. In a collaborative agreement, both the MOE, MCIT and the Teachers academy have approved the Unified Academic Sign Language Dictionary as the main training program for teachers caring for children with special needs. Over 5,000 teachers have been trained.
Tawasol is available on the Internet with as yearly subscription-based accounts. The retail price for one account subscription per year is 1800 EGP, which includes all of the above products.
To achieve the ultimate goal of social inclusion for the hearing-impaired persons in the society, KCG has been working on the next following steps:
- Developing software tools to help the hearing-impaired to communicate with the listeners in the community.
- Provide professional sign language training for the listeners to facilities their interaction and communication with the hearing-impaired people by using the unified Arabic Academic sign language dictionary.
- Developing a curriculum for an Egyptian university education for the hearing-impaired.
Supported by: Ministry of Education, Ministry of Communication and Information technology, and NGOs
Implementing entity: Khalifa Computer Group
Project Status: Ongoing
Project Period: 2015-ongoing
URL to the Practice: www.Deaftawasol.com
Name: Nelly Bahgat
Title: South-South Development Academy Egypt