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Nilofar Ansher

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10/17/2011

Qatari Assistive Technology center invests 1.5 million Qatari Riyals in new technologies for disabled Arabic speakers.


From the center’s resource center in Qatar, the investment offered by Mada features both financial support and expertise in the areas of Assistive Technology and the Arabic language.
 
In partnership with AT manufacturers and research institutes from around the world, Mada has prioritized the ICT challenges facing Arabic speaking people with disabilities, and developed a strategy to overcome them. The approach taken by Mada will focus on filling the gap made by the unavailability of ICT related AT in the Arabic language.
 
“Developing new technologies in conjunction with leading software firms such as Claro, Crick, Dolphin, Saje, Sensory, Therapy Box, and Widget ensures that we are providing tried and tested AT solutions to the Arabic speaking world,” noted David Banes, Deputy CEO of Mada.
 
The range of solutions being localized include:
• Tools to support communication for people with Autism
• Software to support the conversion of digital content in a range of formats to assist people with reading impairments stemming from conditions such as visual impairment
• Word prediction software to support reading and writing skills for people with a physical disability or Dyslexia
The total amount made available by Mada to AT manufacturers during this first phase of localization amounts to approximately 1.5 million Qatari Riyals. In addition to producing Arabic versions, manufacturers will make licenses available for use in Qatar, and throughout the region. As such, the costs of investment will be fully recovered through licenses for software being made available to anyone with a disability in Qatar.
 
“This initial investment constitutes a huge step in our ability to use AT to fill the digital gap in Qatar, and we will hopefully create a domino effect throughout the Arab world,” commented Faleh Al Naemi, CEO of Mada.

In addition to software development firms, Mada will also fund a research project at the University of Southampton to develop an Arabic language web browser based solution to alter magnification, text styles and colors to meet the needs of a disabled user.
 
“Mada’s support for the development of Arabic language solutions goes beyond financial endorsement of research projects and is embodied in the expertise and knowledge it provides AT manufacturers who are just beginning to learn about the emerging markets of the Arab world,” said David Dikter, CEO of the Assistive Technology Industry Association (ATIA).
Results of Mada’s investments will start being seen as early as this month, with the anticipated launch of an Arabic version of Clicker 5, a popular learning aid developed by Crick Software in the United Kingdom.
 
About Mada
Mada was established over a year ago as a public private partnership between Qatar’s Supreme Council for Information and Communication Technology (ictQATAR) and leading IT and Telecommunications companies such as Qatar Telecommunications (Qtel), Vodafone Qatar, Microsoft, as well as Qatar National Bank. Since opening its doors on June 1, 2011, Mada has provided assessment and training services around a wide range of AT solutions that are focused on connecting people with disabilities to the world of ICT.

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• Project F123.org Enables Access to Educational and Employment Opportunities Through Free and Open Source Assistive Technologies

• BSI documentary points the way to accessibility in buildings and the Internet

• UniDAT: International Conference on Universal Design and Assistive Technology, New Delhi, India


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