Voting on symbols at Awsaj Academy

tablet with symbolIt has always been felt that it was essential that AAC users and those with communication difficulties should evaluate our symbols as part our research into symbol acceptance with real participation at all stages. We felt that this would ensure that the very people who would be using the symbols would provide us with feedback so we could tailor the symbols to their needs.

The team contacted the Speech Therapy team at Awsaj Academy for students with special needs to see if we could do a voting session with some of their students. Dr. Biji Philips arranged for 11 students to vote individually, with 15 minute time slots to complete the task. 2 students; a Tobii user with Cerebral Palsy and another with severe Autism required 30-45 minutes.

student votingThe students were given 20 of our symbols to vote on and a thumbs up and thumbs down symbol to communicate their like/dislike for the symbol. Some students preferred to use okay as an option as well. Based on the student’s capacity judged online, Nadine and I asked why they liked/disliked the symbols. Some of the older students were superb and gave us detailed feedback relating to the need for more detailed facial expressions, or adding context to the symbol rather than just characters. Others did not want to let us down and said they liked the majority of the symbols. Here are the results of the voting sessions:

 

 

 

Student comments

 

Good

Ok

Bad

Comments

Hello (Assalumu alaikum)

11

1

–   Not clear, waving or speaking

–   Saying hi and smiling

–   He tells how are you

–   Goodbye

–   Nice because he’s wearing Thobe

–   Nice clothes

–   Clear

–   Goodbye

Rice & Chicken

12 –   Only chicken

–   Doesn’t look like our food

–   Chicken

Children

10 2 –   Not nice hair

–   Put them in uniform

–   Boys

Dance

12 –   Very nice

–   Sing

–   Nice because he’s dancing properly

–   Nice design

Eat

9 2 1 –   Looks angry

–   I don’t see plate or water; I like that he’s opening his mouth and has spoon

–   Eat with hands

–   Don’t wear Thobe when you eat

–   Holding pen

First

11 1 –   Won

–   Appropriate for Qatar

Friends

10 2 –   Uniform

–   Like because it has 2nd and 3rd

–   Clear

–   Thobe are same

–   It’s nice how they hold each other

–   All the shoes black color

–   Shoes different

–   They shouldn’t hold their hands, it’s a shame

House

12 –   White + door white/gray; It’s big

–   White + smaller

–   Two thumbs up

–   Like our house

–   Qatari houses are different

Hug

12 –   Change clothes color

–   The girl is hugging her mother

–   Mom cuz wearing Abaya

I

10 1 1 –   Needs arrow on top of  head

–   Picture matches meaning

–   Full body

–   Not clear

Mother

10 2 –   Add rainbow color + lighten colors to look more happy

–   Child holding hand + smiling

–   Put Abaya

–   Should be in Abaya. I know non-Muslims don’t wear it. Should wear Abaya wherever you go

–   Black Abaya

Pray

11 1 –   I like he’s praying

–   Like him praying

–   Put him in the house. You don’t pray in the middle of the road

–   Clear

Nursery

12 –   Kids are playing and smiling

–   Good

–   School

–   The colors are nice

–   Nice colors

Please

5 2 5 –   Add text

–   She’s saying please and child should be angry

–   Open hands

–   Tilt head

–   Telling secrets

–   Not clear, I can’t see the two hands

–   Talk

–   Greeting

Souq Waqif

10 2 –   Add a lot of people

–   It has Thobe and Abaya

–   Looks like the old days

–   Didn’t know

–   Change the buildings

Pray

7 5 –   Needs more colors + full mosque

–   Not clear

–   Put someone praying + purple sky

–   There’s a bird

–   Didn’t know

–   It’s a mosque, not clear, maybe add colors.

–   I prefer the other praying symbol

–   Add colors

Thank you

8 1 3 –   Hand  gesture is more I love you ; handshake

–   Hold and shake hands

–   I do this for thank you

–   No hand on chest

–   He’s saying the national anthem

–   I don’t use this gesture for thank you

–   Hands greeting

Travel

10 2 –   More sky + men with yellow clothes

–   Need stairs or bus

–   Terminal

–   Dad looks like brother

–   Add airport

You

10 2 –   They should look at each other

–   Context. Add playground

–   Clothes are so different and shoes are different

–   Didn’t know

–   Not clear

–   Come

Bye

9 1 2 –   Show side profile + say bye to someone else

–   Sad face for saying bye

Boys on a stand as winners

Overall it was a great voting session with some valuable feedback obtained. Speech therapists reinforced the need for such a project, giving the example of one student who “could not look at” a picture card used for inferencing emotions due to the image of the boys not covering their arms (picture below). Teachers also reported that students felt empowered by giving their feedback, as they had always been accustomed to receiving help, but on this occasion they felt they were able to help others.

 

An important visit to Cologne by team member Amatullah Kadous

autumn trees along a canal

On the 26th October Dr. Amal Ahmad, David Banes and I headed to Cologne to meet Professor Jens Boenisch and his team from the University of Cologne. I met Jens and his colleague Lena Schmidt at ISAAC 2016 in Toronto where they were presenting on “Teaching Core and Language in Bilingual Settings “. Jens attended one of our sessions and was so impressed by the work of Tawasol. He realized the potential for future collaboration as Germany welcomed many Arab refugees. He gave me his card and we stayed in touch. Some weeks later Jens emailed me to inform me that his team had received a huge grant to help Arabic refugees and invited me to Cologne along with some of my other colleagues to discuss the possibility of a collaboration.

We arrived to Cologne with a warm welcome from Lena who picked us up from the airport and took us to our hotel. The next day was the Cologne team’s presenting day where they presented to us all the amazing research work they had done, were doing and were planning on doing with the refugee project they had recently started. They presented to us about their major core vocabulary study they had been working on for over 5 years. They collected language samples from American and German school aged children as well as typically developing and cognitively impaired students (IQ<75). They sought to see if core vocabulary was the same across language and cognitive abilities. Their research showed that there were minor differences but more than 90% of core words were the same amongst all research groups. They also asked parents/teachers to identify the most commonly used POS that the cognitively impaired group use. They said nouns and verbs. Surprisingly, the percentages of POS used by the cognitively impaired group was very similar to the typically developing children (the highest being pronouns). This conveys that sometimes what we think our cognitively impaired children know can be very different to what they actually know and do. They showed us their cologne communication binders which are a wonderful resource based on 10 years of research into core vocabularies and so important in language learning.

Cologne Communication Boards and Binder

communication binder

The second day of our Cologne stay was Tawasol’s turn to present. We were keen on setting the scene with the first part – Arabic history, language and culture. I felt it was important to convey  this information as in order to be able to work with a group of people that are different to you, it is important to know who they are, the things that have shaped them and the things that are important to them. Only then can understanding be fostered and a bond of trust and rapport building be facilitated. I started with our proud moments in Arab history where the Arab world was the centre of the world in terms of education, philosophy, medicine, astronomy, military strategy and much more. I talked about the complexities of the Arabic language; the syntax – noun and verb root words and how pronouns attach to indicate tense, plural, gender, pronouns etc. and the differences between Arabic and English and how this affects symbol to text translation. I discussed the Arabic letter system and the complexities of having a diacritic system and its implications on young Arabic readers. I discussed the rich culture of the Arabs including the importance of family, food, marriage/pro-creation, the home land, religion and neighbours. I also spoke about Arabic social norms and how that may affect interactions within German society.

It was very insightful for the Cologne team and we agreed that there were many beautiful things that we could learn from each other. I then spoke about the work of Tawasol with a specific focus on the symbol designs and criteria we used in creating our symbols as well as our frequency lists.

We discussed the implications and how we could combine our work to help refugees learn the German language in a quick and effective way to help them integrate. In addition to helping Arabic AAC users learn German, but also explore a means of communication with their Arabic speaking parents. We are very thankful to the Cologne team for their exceptional hospitality and inviting us to help them help Arab refugees settle into their new homeland.

Stay posted for more updates on this collaboration…

Tawasol Symbols celebrating International AAC month October 2016

clothingThis month we are celebrating International AAC month like many others around the world as can be seen from the ISAAC website

The Tawasol symbols team from Qatar ran a workshop for parents, therapists and people with Autism at the the Second National Autism Forum.  The team stressed the importance of using culturally and linguistically appropriate symbols. Demonstrations were given on how to use Tawasol symbols to support communication and build vocabulary in a fun and exciting way through Tawasol game cards. The team provided the audience with free Arabic symbol resources in Arabic and English. The attendees were very excited to see and receive something that they believed represented their culture and religion and appeared very keen to start using the Tawasol resources.

In the photographs below you can see the Tawasol symbols on the attendees tables.

people attending autism forum at tables

Nadine presenting about the symbols

In the picture above Nadine is presenting whilst Dr Amal and Tullah were taking photos at this stage in the day.  Everyone was given a pack of cards with Tawasol Symbols in Arabic and English, that can be downloaded from the resources page.

tawasol symbol cards

worksheets

laminated worksheets with symbols

 

Symbols for different settings across the world.

map of countries for Tawasol Symbols downloads

World map where Tawasol Symbols have been downloaded

There have been many debates about localisation and globalisation or internationalisation and the different requirements to support these ideas – W3C have provided definitions that fit the web and in many ways localisation can support concepts used on web pages namely customisation related to:

  1. “Numeric, date and time formats
  2. Use of currency
  3. Keyboard usage
  4. Collation and sorting
  5. Symbols, icons and colors
  6. Text and graphics containing references to objects, actions or ideas which, in a given culture, may be subject to misinterpretation or viewed as insensitive.
  7. Varying legal requirements
  8. and many more things.”

We have acted on many of the W3C ideas over the last two and half years and noticed that while we have been developing our symbols for an audience based mainly in the MIddle East many of those who have requested use of the symbols and downloads have come from as far afield as Sweden, Australia and India.   We know some of these symbols have been for refugee groups and camps and others have been for religious symbols.  Both these requests have led to an increase in the number of symbols we have produced in these areas and many have been seen on our Facebook pages.

facebook sample symbols

But we are not the only ones making symbols for a wider audience and it is interesting to know that there have been requests that Apple should introduce emojis with women wearing the hijab with a petition gaining over 2,295 signatures seven months ago and headline news from the BBC and many others.

Many refugee organisations have booklets and charts with images to help those who do not speak the language of the country to which they are going. An example is the ICOON project which has many charts for download as PDF files.  These images tend to be in monochrome but cover a wide range of topics.

icoon symbols

Example of ICOON refugee charts freely available to download in PDF

Tawasol symbols are also available for download with charts in both Arabic and English and we have included religious settings and have an interactive version as a demonstration to illustrate the symbols in action thanks to The Open Voice Factory. 

sample prayer symbols

Sample prayer symbols from the interactive online communication chart

Tawasol at ISAAC

Dana and TullahI presented “Core Vocabularies: Same or different for Bilingual Language Learning and Literacy Skill building with Symbols?” and together with Dana; “Developing an Arabic Symbol Dictionary for AAC users: Bridging the Cultural, Social and Linguistic Gap”. We received a lot of great feedback about both presentations and many people showed interest in our project. One Speech and Language Pathologist (SLP) from Malta approached us having very similar issues with the analysis of core vocabulary. She mentioned that the issues I discussed in my presentation were almost identical to the issues in Maltese and was seeking advice on how to categorise pronouns given their attachment to nouns in the Maltese language.

A few SLPs from Israel approached us seeking advice about resources and access to our symbols as 20% of the population is Arabic speaking.  A team from Germany and a team from Sweden were very interested in using our symbols with refugees and the German team were interested in collaborating with us on a project that focused on a German/Arabic symbol dictionary.

Many attendees also found our second presentation very insightful as Dana and I discussed the criteria we used to adapt the symbols to be culturally appropriate. Several commented that they found the Arabic cultural and social norms as well as environmental considerations very different when compared to their personal experiences and were grateful for opening their eyes to things that would have never occurred to them as being offensive or unsuitable.

One of the highlights of this trip was the screening of our film at the ISAAC Film Festival which can now be seen on the Arabic and English home pages of the Tawasol Symbol website. Our film shared the story of Mohammed, an eye gaze user for whom we developed prayer symbols so that he could actively participate in prayer with his family. It was screened alongside approximately 10 other films from around the world and provided such a unique insight into the mix of films presented. Many people approached me after the screening and congratulated the Tawasol team on our “amazing work”, a “wonderful film” and a few took our details as they could see how the prayer symbols could benefit some of their clients.

film festivalFilm Mohammed

For the rest of the week, Dana and I went to sessions with a focus on core vocabularies and where possible in bi-lingual situations. It seemed that the issue of core vocabularies in other languages being quite different to English was a global linguistic challenge; whether it was Spanish, Maltese, Hebrew or German.

We visited the exhibition and saw some great new products and services. At the Boardmaker/TobiiDynavox stand we were shown some of their new apps including SnapScene and Pathways for Snap Scene. In these apps you are able to take pictures, add voice recordings, circle and highlight objects in images as well as label them. Pathways then gives you tips and tools on how to make these pictures an opportunity for communication, social interaction and learning. We also visited VocalID who customise your speech generated device to sound just like you. We topped off our ISAAC 2016 experience by attending the BUILD meeting whose members hope to bring together people working in AAC in developing countries. It was lovely to see/hear the work being done in South Africa, Taiwan, Singapore, Africa and Eastern European countries. It really made us think about creating an ISAAC Arabia or at least get the conversation going as to how we are collectively advancing the status of AAC users in the Arab region.

Quote ISAAC

What We Learnt at ISAAC

ISAAC bag

ISAAC was an incredible experience. There was so much new research and knowledge that was shared and for me brought to light the significance of continuing education. It made me realise that it is through workshops and seminars at conferences that we become better clinicians and researchers and rid our practices of outdated and ineffective means of intervention.

I kicked off the week by attending the pre-conference workshops. As I waited for the first workshop to begin, I met a lovely lady by the name of Mathilde Suc-Mella from France. She is a teacher by profession but things changed for her when she had her first son who was diagnosed with Angelman Syndrome. This was the beginning of their AAC journey. She felt that she had to educate herself on AAC if she was ever going to be able to communicate with her son effectively. She says that AAC resources in France were scarce and until now she has found that the knowledge and resources around AAC are not as advanced as in English speaking countries. She has travelled far and wide and done many courses and trained with some of the best in the field of AAC including Gayle Porter – Creator of the PODD approach.  This is when she decided that she wanted to create a PODDs version in French. We shared our challenges of not having core vocabularies in the languages we work in and how different the languages are to English from a linguistic point of view. Her determination to advance the status of AAC in France and to train others in this field was inspiring. She has her own website called CAApables.

As for the workshops themselves, here are some notes I took:

Kathryn Garrett and Joanne Lasker
The AAC-Aphasia Framework: Where do we go now?

  • AAC is not instantly successful, it takes time because it’s an external means of communication and is practically a new language.
  • All the evidence suggests that people with Aphasia like supported conversation i.e. a combination of things to convey a message e.g. drawing, simple text, provision of options and circling/crossing correct/incorrect answers etc. However communication partners don’t always offer this to their loved one with Aphasia because “they’re too busy” or they “know what their partner wants” or “find it difficult to pose options” of what the person with aphasia may want.
  • AAC for those with aphasia tends to be a last resort when therapy isn’t working or they’re discharged. This needs to change.

Aphasia presAphasia experts and Tullah

Pat Mirenda
Taking the Initiative: Supporting Spontaneous Communication in Students with Autism Spectrum Disorder

  • Spontaneous communication is important in providing AAC users with control over their environment and the ability to learn more. It builds self-determination and the ability to communicate when they want and what they want.
  • Not all AAC users are able to achieve spontaneity because of poor instruction not because they can’t do it. Research shows that people with Autism can provide spontaneous communication most commonly in the form of body language and less so with symbols. This is because people with Autism are very good at doing EXACTLY what you teach them. So if you are only teaching them to communicate in structured conversations that’s exactly what they’ll do.
  • PECS was designed to promote spontaneous communication but a lot of the time spontaneity is not achieved. Here are some common mistakes clinicians make:
  • The manual is not read or followed properly
  • Use of the wrong motivators or the SAME motivators. Motivation is key to the success of PECS
  • The clinician should NOT be talking at all except when the clinician is given the card by the Person with Autism
  • The first phase cannot be completed without a physical prompter
  • Clinician reacting before the symbol card is in their hand
  • Choosing the wrong time e.g. offering a snack reinforcer straight after lunch
  • Using more than one symbol in phase 2
  • Not increasing the distance or not gradually increasing the distance
  • Failing to take PECS book everywhere
  • Failing to give what is requested
  • PECS should be done right through to the end- phase 6. A lot of people stop at phase 3 – requesting
  • Unfortunately our main goal is to get kids with Autism to ask for things then stop. What about engaging and commenting? Requesting only provides them with limited opportunities.
  • We sometimes see kids with Autism as less like normal people than more like normal people when the latter is the case.

Carole Zangari and Gloria Soto
Supporting Vocabulary Development in Students Who Use AAC: Practical Approaches for Educators and SLPs

  • AAC devices should be sufficient enough for use post-school environment. More often than not it has limited vocabulary and is activity based.
  • There needs to be a focus on core vocabularies and a wider set of vocabulary otherwise you are placing a ceiling on language development.
  • Sometimes we think that more vocabulary is beyond the capacity of the AAC user but we actually do more harm to the AAC user by limiting vocabulary.
  • More vocabulary = more opportunities for communication, commenting, and engaging.
  • Shouldn’t use too many words too soon = confusing and icons become too small
  • Play-dough should not be the goal, the goal should be the learning of new core word/s through an activity like play dough e.g. “make”
  • Vocabulary development in typically developing kids/mainstream schools is flawed (vocab books -> pre-test for the week > copy > match to definition > quiz on words i.e. teach / test / Words not taught to be used in context so no generalisation to the real world) So it is expected that when taught to those with learning disabilities it’ll be flawed too.
  • We should also stay away from teaching for meaning only and not worry about grammar. E.g we let it pass if a student says “I goed there”. Rather we should try to teach the student to fix their sentence e.g. “you said a word wrong in that sentence, can you try to fix it? “You said I goed there, the verb sounds wrong.”  “Should it be goed or went?”,   “can you say the sentence again using the right verb?”  “Does that sound better?” (self-evaluation)
  • Start off with a smaller set of core words and add words each month- have word of the week/month. Set goals with more and more advanced boards “start with the end in sight”.
  • Give them the meaning of the word e.g. “upset” – upset means angry, you seem a little upset, you seem a little angry.
  • Show them how to use words in context of different activities. They don’t have to achieve the word to 80% accuracy all the time, it’s ok to float between 50-80% otherwise it’ll hold them back from learning more.
  • Incorporate into activities they enjoy/have personal interest in. Use them throughout the day e.g. singing, writing, playing, in surveys. E.g. the word is “go”. Ask them to survey the class – “where do you like to go?”, “How do you go home?”.
  • Use every opportunity to say the word throughout the day- word bombardment
  • Can combine core word teaching with curriculum based vocab. E.g.

WEEK1: I, go, me (core) + continue, monotheism, memorise

WEEK2: week 1+ week 2 words

Carole Zangari

Tawasol Symbols’ Graphic Designer’s experience of attending ISAAC 2016

Dana at the podium speaking

Dana Lawand at ISSAC 2016

We received positive feedback from conference attendees on the creation of culturally orientated symbols and the appeal of illustrating differences between male and female figures based on social settings and religious sensitivities.

 

Therapists showed interest in our approach as to how we were developing our symbols and it was exciting to learn more about AAC users who benefit from animated symbols.

thank you Many Arabic speaking individuals use expressive hand gestures and at present the Tawasol symbols show this in a static image such as ‘thank you’ with the palm of the right hand on the chest. However, the action of the palm of the right hand going to the chest with a bowing of the head can be a sign of respect or thanks. But as with all cultures these gestures require careful localisation and more participatory research. Nevertheless, adding animation to some of the present Tawasol symbols could make the use of the symbols more inclusive.

It was immensely encouraging to find a general sense that there is a need for Arabic culturally specific symbols globally, as well as for those countries in the Gulf where the project has been funded by the Qatar National Research Fund. This was highlighted by people from those countries who have been welcoming Syrian refugees and attendees from other Arabic nations around the world.

At the ISAAC Build meeting we realised that we need much more support from other Arab organisations and other countries with large Arabic speaking populations to bridge the gaps in our dialogue those supporting Arabic AAC users.

It would be good to collaborate with individual Arabic country representatives and speakers in the hope that we could make more of an impression at ISAAC 2018 which will be held on the Gold Coast in Australia!

Personally as a graphic designer I feel we need more research to:

• back up the development of type of design I have developed for Tawasol symbols to further prove that they are an efficient and speedy way for symbol communication, whilst also encouraging literacy skills.
• build on our findings about what is key to good symbol design for all ages of Arabic AAC users for example the use of particular colours, shapes and more about the look and feel as we consider animation.

As someone who had not worked with AAC users prior to my work on the Tawasol Symbols, an example of these ideas came from an experience I had with my bright lipstick as an eye catcher! I learnt about the impact of personalising symbols after meeting a four-year-old child who had been diagnosed with autism. He introduced me to the concept of being attracted by bright colours and how with our Symbol Creator (http://tawasolsymbols.org/en/create-symbols/) and the addition of different versions of symbols could perhaps enhance his chances of enjoying communication.

In conclusion I want to emphasise that we are not only creating freely available uniquely styled symbols (that we hope will be seen as an addition to other symbol sets), but that they are backed up by research from our AAC forum participants. I feel passionate about wanting to continue researching the subject to provide symbols that are supported by users’ real requirements as they strive to communicate their needs and wants.

think So in addition to our attention to cultural, religious, social and linguistic sensitivities we must keep thinking of new ideas and innovate to create the most efficient symbols that reach out to all our users.

Dana Lawand – Tawasol Symbols Granphic Designer

News from the ISAAC conference and recent work

ISAAC film festival posterThe ISAAC 2016 conference in Toronto has seen the launch of our film about Mohammed and his use of the Tawasol symbols for praying. The importance of personalisation and localisation of communication charts to suit user needs is illustrated.  The setting of the film takes you to Qatar and straight into a Doha home where one can see the difference listening to participants in this sort of a project can make.

Share and Believe, A Symbolic Journey

Mohammed using his Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) aid to express his feelings about the Tawasol symbols and what he has achieved. We would like to say thank you for his support and his family whilst we have been working to develop freely available symbols that can be used alongside any other symbol sets but take into account Gulf and other Arabic cultural, religious and social settings. The team have been working in collaboration with AAC users, families, teachers and professionals in Doha, Qatar and hope to offer many more symbols in the future that will also help those with literacy and language skill difficulties as well as for use in signage etc.

 

The team feel this has been one of the most important outcomes of the Arabic Symbol Dictionary – a freely available set of symbols that can work with any other symbol set to support Arabic AAC users, those with literacy skill difficulties and for use in the local environment.  We have worked hard with local participants to achieve a mix of Qatari and Arabic dress, religious culture and take into account social etiquette and sensitivities.  Much more has to be done and we are working hard to increase the vocabulary in the coming months.

At the conference we were lucky enough to have two papers accepted and here are the PowerPoints that went with the presentations. The ISAAC Conference program provides links to the abstracts
Core Vocabularies: Same or different for Bilingual Language Learning and Literacy Skill building with Symbols?

Developing an Arabic Symbol Dictionary for AAC users: Bridging the Cultural, Social and Linguistic Gap.

Finally in the last few weeks we have been working with CommuniKate and Joe Reddington to add all our symbols to two general communication charts in English and Arabic which can be personalised as the charts are built using PowerPoint slides.  The system has been developed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License and we are very grateful for the support Joe and Kate have given us with the project.

The English test sample chart is available and is best seen using the Firefox browser, but here is a screen grab of the Arabic version that is still being worked on as we want it to work with text to speech in the same way as the English version.  When you select a symbol the word appears in the window and the text to speech reads it out. At present the English version is using eSpeak but we need to find a good Arabic voice and the correct sentence construction with the appropriate character word changes as the symbols are selected.

Arabic Communication chart

Making Choices – Celebrating Eid – going to conferences

chooseI’m writing this whilst many of our Muslim colleagues and friends are celebrating Eid and have gone on holiday or have chosen to celebrate at home. Meanwhile hear in the UK we have had some interesting times with a referendum and making choices about staying or leaving the European market. The idea of choosing how to celebrate, how to vote and how to communicate feelings is not always easy for those who use AAC with symbols and is something we have been trying to help by offering a wide range of options with our symbols. We keep saying these symbols are to be used in conjunction with other symbol systems so that learnt small words such as prepositions, conjunctions remain as they always have.

Much of the discussions we’ve been having as a team in recent months has been about the decisions we need to make when prioritising the types of symbols we develop in the last few months of our project. We do not want it to stop in November and need to find a way of maintaining what we have already developed whilst creating a framework for new symbols to continuously appear.

For the ICCHP conference next week we have developed a poster that shows how we have been building a vocabulary list as well as all the symbols. We hope the criteria we have been using can be taken on by anybody who wishes to help us in the future. You’ll see that the most important things we have been thinking about when it comes to the localisation of symbols includes:

  • Being aware that individuals portrayed in symbols should be suitably dressed, having options for male and female.
  • Colour matters just as facial hair and hairstyles impact on the look and feel of symbols
  • Care with social nuances between people and the amount of bare skin on display.
  • Symbols need to have the appropriate orientation to match culture, religion and how they are seen in text – think reading/writing right to left or left to right.
  • An awareness of use of different parts of speech in multilingual situations such as dual plurals, gender and use of nouns, verbs, pronouns, adverbs and adjectives etc. plus accents or diacritics for text to speech output.
  • Thinking about the environment – local currency, places and not too much greenery if it’s inappropriate.
  • Considerations relating to culture and religion especially the provision of special holidays, prayers, customs, local landmarks and food.

All these ideas have been condensed into the poster you see below.

At ISAAC you’ll also see a video that has been made with Mohammed talking about the way he appreciated using the Tawasol symbols and members of the team will be presenting. We will make sure the slides are available and the video goes on to YouTube after August 13th, when the conference is over.

Have a very happy holiday and hopefully we will have a chance to meet some of you at the conferences.

happy face (female)happy face (male}

The outcome of a summer of voting on further batches of symbols

In June 2016 Tawasol concluded its second to last voting session for the Arabic Symbol Dictionary Project. 24 therapists voted on 60 symbols from 3 organisations; AWSAJ Academy, Hamad Medical Corporation Speech Therapy department and The Hamad Child Development Centre. Although traditionally 40-60 voters participate from a wide range of organisations and
AAC contexts, it was difficult to facilitate similar numbers to previous occasions because the school year end was coming to a close for 3 months of summer vacation.

Unfortunately, with a technical hitch,  all voting took place on paper rather than our usual online voting. This, we believe skewed our data as on the online symbol manager you are not able to submit a comment unless you enter numeric ratings for the criteria. Although the significance of completing numeric ratings on paper was explained to voters, 101 symbols had comments but no numeric data. The team discussed this and decided that the best way to proceed would be to review the comments and if there was an element of negativity in the comment, it would be given a score of 2 out of 5 and if it was a positive comment it would be given a 4 out of 5. The results for the 4 sets of criteria over 4 batches of symbols are as below:

Voting criteria averages batches 1-4

We believe it is because of this change in voting settings that the ratings related to ‘feelings about the symbol’ and ‘represents word/phrase’ were not as favourable as in previous voting sessions.    We also believe that the recent concepts (for which we are developing symbols), are becoming more and more abstract and more difficult to depict. A commonly repeated statement throughout the voting sessions was “I don’t think of this word when I see this symbol but it’s a hard concept to convey and I can’t come up with a better way to visually depict it.” It was pleasing to see the colour/contrast and cultural sensitivity ratings and comments improve.

However, there were advantages of not using the technology in that we received more in depth comments and participants appeared to be willing to be more critical which was immensely helpful.

Summary of the comments provided from the voting sessions.

Zoom In!

For a number of symbols the voters requested that we zoom in on the essential parts of the symbol to emphasise the facial expressions, essential details and focus the user on the intended meaning. They communicated that a whole body depiction wasn’t needed in symbols like thirsty and quiet and preferred that just the head and neck were showing or in the case of “tummy” that only the chest down be shown.

quietthirsty

Oops! Didn’t think of that!

Voters in batch 4 really helped us to focus on the details in symbols, as this can make a big a difference to first impressions and comprehension. For example for the concept “easy” the thinking bubble actually had an equation that wasn’t necessarily “easy”. They all said stick to 1+1=2. Also, in the symbol for nanny, the character is wearing an apron which they said can be confused with a maid. In Qatar, a nanny looks after the children while the maid carries out house duties.

easynanny

Swap it!

It was interesting to hear voters say “this symbol would be perfect for your other word just change x”. For example they suggested we use the symbol for “contribute” for “teacher” but just add an arrow to the teacher. This was also the case for “something” where voters suggested this could be the symbol for “choose” just with the finger making direct contact with one of the objects.

contribute, something, teacher and choose symbols

contribute symbol above teacher and something above the choose symbol going from top left.

That’s not the word…

Voters picked out a few words in Arabic which they believed were not accurate. For example “canteen” transliterated in Arabic to “cafeteria” was not acceptable and suggested the word “مقصف”. This was also the case for “dictionary” in Arabic where it was suggested that the term we had used “قاموس” was specifically a dictionary for translated terms where as a dictionary with words and their meanings should be referred to as a “معجم”.

Compare the pair.

For some difficult concepts voters suggested that it would be easier to grasp the concept if there was a comparison within the same symbol. For example; fast and slow were a bit difficult to understand as standalone symbols but when put together into one symbol and fading the unintended concept, it became clearer. They also requested this for “organised” i.e. to have a “messy” office side by side with an “organised office otherwise the symbol could be interpreted as “office”.

slow

organised

 

 

 

 

 

How rude!

Despite the rise in positive cultural suitability ratings,  a few cultural issues are still being raised. The symbol for “come” using the index finger is seen as rude, belittling and disrespectful in the Arab culture. Although they all agreed it was very clear that it was “come” they didn’t think it was appropriate. Some voters also were unhappy with the boy uncovering his stomach for the “tummy” symbol and preferred that his stomach be covered and to indicate stomach with an arrow.

come

 

 

 

 

 

Put it into context.

Voters reminded us of the importance of including context in symbols. For example the symbol for “active”, they suggested that they need to be in a park and for “teacher” although she did look like a teacher they thought it was essential to put her in a classroom.

active

teacher

 

 

 

 

 

Is this symbol really needed?

Some voters questioned how essential some of the symbols were and whether they were really needed e.g. manufacture and emotional faces.

manufacture

emotional faces

 

 

 

 

 

It was very insightful once again to hear the perspectives of those working with AAC users. All their comments have been passed onto the graphic designer and changes will be made to the symbols discussed.

During our voting session at AWSAJ Academy, we provided participants with resource packs that included a variety of communication scenarios made with our symbols. This included bathroom routines, prayer position sequences, fire drill execution charts, fill in the gaps worksheets, what I did on the weekend worksheets, The life of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) symbol book with corresponding worksheets, basic requirements communication boards, refugee communication boards, I want charts and many more. You can download all the resources from the Tawasol symbols website.

We also gave every teacher and therapist evaluation forms to see whether the symbols were meeting their needs.  In the coming weeks we will update you on the results of the symbol evaluations.

Report by Amatullah Kadous