Learners with special needs get new software

November 29, 2012 - 4:26:03 am

From left: Maha Al Mansouri, the Deputy CEO of Mada, Claire Fenwick, a representative of Sensory Software and David Banes, CEO of Mada, during the press conference at the Mada office yesterday. Abdul Basit


DOHA: In line with its efforts to increase the use of Assistive Technology in Qatar and the Arabic speaking world, Mada (Qatar Assistive Technology Center) yesterday launched the Mada Reader Writer, an important and easy to use educational tool for learners with special needs.

“Mada Reader Writer is targeting people with reading and writing and literacy problems in Qatar, specially those with dyslexia,” David Banes, CEO of Mada, told The Peninsula at the launch event attended by representatives of disabled people’s organisations, research institutions and independent schools.

Banes said the newly developed tool was a revolutionary solution for learners with dyslexia who speak Arabic especially in schools here.

“This is part of our education strategy to put support and access to technology in schools that teachers can use for children with special needs,” he added. Developed by Mada in conjunction with Sensory Software - a British based assistive technology manufacturer, the Mada Reader Writer was created as part of a comprehensive programme to support assistive technology manufacturers from around the world to provide much needed tools in the Arabic language.

The Arabic product comprises “reader,” a simple text to speech utility and “writer,” which predicts words as you type. 

Together, they form a significant contribution to assisting those who struggle with reading and writing throughout the Arabic speaking world. The programme will be readily made available, free of charge, to all those that need it in Qatar.

“This is the first of its kind produced in Arabic and I hope this will make an excellent tool for Arabic-speaking learners,” said Claire Fenwick, representative of Sensory Software

The product, which was started last year, is easy to use and can be learned by a person in 15 to 20 minutes demonstration, explained Banes, adding they have been conducting tests to people who come to the centre to get as many feedback as possible to further improve the model. In addition, the product will also be tested even beyond Qatar to have other Arabic-speaking learners become part of the review process.

“As we continue to work toward creating an accessible digital landscape for people with disabilities in Qatar, developing Arabic language solutions remains a priority for Mada. Not only does it allow us to meet the needs of disabled people throughout the country, but it enables to have an impact on Arabic speakers worldwide,” he added. 

“Mada is currently leading efforts in the Middle East and the Arabic speaking world to promote greater use of assistive technology, so it was a natural fit to work with them to develop the Mada Reader Writer. Hopefully, this important learning tool will be the first of future developments that can serve the needs of people with disabilities in their native Arabic tongue,” added Paul Hawes, Managing Director of Sensory Software.

The launch comes as part of a series of events that Mada is organising around the theme of communication tools. There are plans already put in place to develop Arabic language solutions that can support the needs of people with communication disabilities. 

The Peninsula