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Partnerships for enhanced engagement in research (PEER) SCIENCE
Cycle 1 (2011 Deadline)

Assistive technology for improving literacy among the deaf and hard of hearing    

PI: Abdelhadi Soudi, Ecole National de l'Industrie Minerale
US Partner: Corinne Vinopol, Institute for Disabilities Research and Training, Inc.
Project Dates: June 2012 - February 2014

Project Overview

Moroccan Sign Language (MSL) is a poorly resourced language with communication problems compounded by a severe lack of interpreters. It is also worth noting that Sign Language research in developing countries (including Morocco) is still in its infancy, so standardization of communication tools has rarely been attempted. The high rate of illiteracy among the deaf community and the lack of sign language interpreters often deprives members of this community of critical information, with serious consequences to their welfare, safety, health, opportunities, and rights.
 
  Morocco Partnership Photo A
Dr. Soudi with sign language interpreter.
 
  Morocco Partnership Photo B
Dr. Soudi and his team.
 
  Morocco Partnership Photo C
The U.S. partner, Dr. Vinopol, during her visit to Dr. Soudi’s lab in Morocco.

This project will be carried out in collaboration with the U.S.-based Institute for Disabilities Research and Training, Inc., which is currently developing a translation engine that provides reciprocal translation between American Sign Language (ASL) and English. The project is aimed at creating a robust assistive technology that would be of accessible cost for deaf individuals in Morocco and their families, service providers, educators, or businesses that employ them or have them as customers. The technology should be able to function as both an instructional tool to improve the literacy of deaf children and adults and as a real-time translation device between MSL and standard written Arabic. This translation technology will accommodate a variety of input and output options, including input for standard Arabic text (typing, scanning, screen text transfer); input for MSL (a sensor-enabled glove capable of reading the finger and hand movements of sign language and camera integration); output for standard Moroccan text (standard Arabic text); and output for MSL (sign graphics, sign video clips). By collaborating on this PEER-supported project, the researchers hope to determine whether the gesture capture technology currently under development for ASL is applicable to MSL and whether the English-to-ASL/ASL-to-English translation engine and hardware currently under development are relevant for Standard Arabic-to-MSL/MSL-to-Standard Arabic. The results obtained should benefit both sides in their efforts to use technologies to assist marginalized disabled communities in both Morocco and the United States.
 
Major Results
 
Published six papers and the project was featured in Odyssey, an award-winning children’s science magazine.
Organized the PEER Project Awareness day in Rabat which was attended by over 350 deaf people and 20 organizations. The day's events can be viewed on Facebook. 
The Assistive technology and proposed syllabus for technology integration into educational settings has had a very significant impact on:
o Directors of deaf schools and educators who were introduced to new techniques with regards to “disability” pedagogy and assistive technologies
o Policy makers (head of the Prime Minister’s cabinet and the minister in charge of the disabled) who formulate decisions regarding the education ofdeaf students
o Members of 20 deaf associations including the family members of deaf students