In Egypt, there are many hearing impaired persons that suffer from illiteracy, low income and poor chances in education and employment. In addition, they live in isolation from the rest of the society because of the lack of communication with normal people due to their disability.
Tawasol was launched in 2015 by “Khalifa Computer Group” (KCG), an Egyptian family-owned IT company upon identifying the challenges facing those with hearing impairment in Egypt. The founder, Dr. Adel Khalifa decided to adopt a strategy to build an infrastructure that can aid those with hearing disability in their paths in education, employment, and breaking the barrier of communication with society. The Khalifa Computer Group in collaboration with the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology and the Ministry of Education developed the package of software which aims to improve the 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.
The KCG team faced numbers of challenges that prevent adopting standard tools from the developed countries in Egypt such as:
- The native language in Egypt is Arabic;
- The Egyptian Sign Language for Deaf is not unified and is definitely different from the American or European sign language;
- A large number of the Deaf in Egypt are illiterate and;
- In spite of the governmental law that 5% of the employment in all companies and governmental offices should be from people with special needs, 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 the Deaf people there. The research leads to achieving four components for these tools (See Diagram 1):
So far, the solution has achieved the followings:
- The Ministry of Education in Egypt approved the project and ordered the following as a start: The Cloud version of Tawasol system to be distributed for the 200 School in Egypt for Deaf (Al-Amal Schools) and The Unified Academic Sign Language Dictionary on DVD for the same schools
- 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 training Teachers of the special needed students on sign language (5000 Teachers as a start).
- Khalifa Computer Group was granted a project from MCIT to extend the capability of “Tawasol” in accessibility for Deaf as a part of the second phase of the strategy suggested by KCG.
- Currently, KCG is negotiating with one of the largest newspaper agency in Egypt offering full year training through its training facility for sign language of Deaf and hearing people.
- KCG is also is negotiating one of the largest factories for food and drinks to train their staff on sign Language using “Tawasol”
- KCG has installed and tested the Tawasol system in two different Deaf Schools one in Cairo and the second was in Al-Fayoum City. The results were positive with great interest from both teachers and students.
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 products.
Tawasol is an ongoing project. Through the first phase; Khalifa Computer Group has developed the above mentioned four major applications, which could be considered as the infrastructure of the strategic project. In the next phase, Tawasol builds applications on top of what was developed in the first phase as well as enhancing the functionality of the first phase applications. The three applications of the new phase can be seen in Diagram 2.
To achieve the ultimate goal of social inclusion of the hearing impaired persons in the society Khalifa Computer Group has been working on the next following steps:
- Developing software tools to help the deaf communicates with the listeners in the community.
- Provide professional sign language training for the listeners to facilities their interaction and communication with the deaf people through the using of the unified Arabic Academic sign language dictionary.
- Developing the Egyptian university education for the deaf.
Awards: Tamkeen Award by MCIT Egypt
Partners: Ministry of Education, Ministry of Communication and Information technology, Khalifa computer group, deaf NOG`s
Mailing Address: South-South Development Academy: 6th Ibn Maysser st., off Mahmoud Azmy st., Zamalek
Tel: (02) 2737 5086/7/8/9
Fax: (02) 27375084