Category Archives: Report

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

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

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

Tawasol Symbol Website Development

The website development has begun as more symbols are being added to the database and over 1vote on url20 have been accepted by participants voting via the symbol management system.  These will be made available on the tawasolsymbols.org website when it is launched.

Sadly many of the web addresses linked to the use of the word ‘tawasol’ had been taken.  The team voted on a collection of addresses that could be used and it was decided that we should also have a re-direct from arabicsymbols.org.

Then we collected the options for website designs provided by Dana, our graphic designer and added them to a Google form in order to have a voting session on which was considered the best option.  See below…

webiste sampleIt turned out that Dana’s last version No 4 came out top with 21 to 19 votes being the sum of the different criteria.   This has provided the basis for the wire frames that have now been submitted to the team for further comments.

The team decided that where possible in-house designed symbols should appear as guides to content.  Pages should be simple and short and work well on portable devices.

The responsive design and accessibility criteria have led to some restrictions in particular to the width of presentation and the number of symbols that can be viewed at once.  Two sites separate have been prepared with English and Arabic on offer via a WordPress content management system which means anyone with a login can update basic content.

wireframes for website

Issues with downloading symbol files were detected early on in the trials with emails being received from beta testers pointing out the corruption of the Arabic labels. This was resolved when it was discovered that in Windows the process of zipping data caused the corruption to occur – this did not appear to happen on iOS or Mac systems.  A .rar compression format is now offered as well and this has solved the problem.

In-house beta testing revealed other issues which were dealt with such as news not appearing and missed links etc at a very basic level. The second phase of development could now start with the introduction of an API (application program interface) to host the dictionary database and filtering system.

Final voting on Batch One Symbols with AWSAJ Academy and two AAC users.

voting on symbol

Voting to decide on types of clothing and types of action symbols

In the past month there have been final voting sessions on the first batch of adapted symbols and the voting on whether symbols should portray individuals just in Qatari dress or a mix and if action words (verbs) where gender is an issue should be portrayed by stick figures or would the dictionary need to have both male and female representations.

 

 

 

 

More votes on this subject may yet come in from the AAC Forum,  but it is felt that the initial 50 votes, as a result of face to face meetings,  could be revealed at this stage.

clothing type

Voting shows 68% want a mix of clothing types

Drawing type

Voting shows 86% want gender specific verbs

 

 

 

 

 

 

Comments for the type of dress needed on the symbols included the following:

“less distracting”, “I like both, but prefer option 1 for Qatar” (voted for just Qatari dress) “one uncovered”, “make one of them dressed in Abaya”, “Make one of the girls wear abaya and one of the males wear a thowb”, “one in abaya and one with no headcover and for male one in thobe”, “add one person from action one”, “I prefer one to wear the abaya, one to wear a normal hijab and one without a hijab”, “with one uncovered hair”, “one girl/boy can be in Arabic traditional dress, one girl can be not covered”, 

Comments for the type of drawing needed for verbs included the following:

“To make it more culturally representative and to bring out contrast of figure – around differentiation”,  “the colours are clear”, “don’t like stick figures” “colour the stick”.

The decision has been made that we need to have a mix of clothing and verbs will be represented in both male and female where required.  

Further voting sessions for adapted symbols took place with AWSAJ Academy teachers working with Arabic AAC users.  The online Quick Voting system was used. To date 62 participants’ votes  have been logged on the Symbol Manager resulting in 2341 votes for the  initial batch of 65 symbols!  These now need to be analysed for the comments received and the level of marks given out of 5 for each of the voting criteria – the voters feelings about the symbol generally,  whether it was found to be a suitable representation of the word or phrase presented, whether it had sufficient colour contrast levels and cultural sensitivity.    For all these criteria the average scores were above 3.9.  Where individual symbols have received lower scores in any of the criteria further adaptations will be made taking into account any comments received.  These redrawn symbols will be submitted for voting once again alongside new symbols developed for the next batch of voting that will take place in May.

Average scores for symbols in Batch 1

Average scores for symbols in Batch 1 all over 3.9 out of 5

Case Study A Aejaz and Tullah also met up with two young AAC Users on separate occasions.  Aejaz set up a  batch of 21 symbols on a grid with 5 versions of thumb positions for the 5 scores for A aged 8,  with the support of his father he voted on the symbols and the results were positive with only 3 symbols being marked below the mid point as can be seen with the results below.

 

A's scores for the symbols

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

casestudyMWhen working with M in the Shafallah Center,  the criteria  for voting was simplified to thumbs up for an acceptable symbol straight across for in the middle and  thumbs down for a reject.  The latter worked well and once again most symbols were found to be acceptable.  It is hoped we will have more case studies to share and batch 2 of the adapted symbols will be voted on during May and early June before Ramadan.

 

 

Designs for Symbols and Arabic Core vocabulary.

Over the past month a further 20 therapists with 13 Arabic speakers voted on the first batch of symbols with Tullah reporting that there was a preference for colour versions of male and female images for verbs rather than stick figures  (3 voted for stick figures and 17 for full image with colours). Tullah also felt that gender might play a role in the symbol choices,  as it appeared that the male attendees were more willing to accept stick figures in black and white.  This area needs more research!   Does the gender of the therapist impact on the choice of symbol they may make for their AAC users?  

When it came to discussing the clothing concerns there was a general consensus that there should be a range of dress with options for traditional styles as well as westerner clothing.  The final dictionary will provide access to all the ARASAAC symbols as well as the specially designed ones for Arabic culture so it is hoped that there will be sufficient choice.

Survey stick figure with Arabic modificationsBecause there have been some concerns about the way action symbols for verbs are portrayed and the type of clothing needed across all the symbols it was decided that we needed to increase the number of people involved in making these decisions so a survey is being sent out across several organisations with AAC users in the hope that we receive clear direction.

The  results from this survey and the final votes for Batch 1 of the newly designed symbols will be discussed in the next blog.   In the meantime a new collection of Arabic words lists have been gathered from the Awsaj Academy teachers, parents and speech therapists working with AAC users.

 

Core Vocabulary

During the year the team have kept up the discussion about core Arabic vocabularies.   According to the PrAActical Blog (author Carole Zangari) the recent ATIA 2015  conference

“served as validation that core vocabulary is now a widely accepted practice in supporting language development with AAC learners. Presentation after presentation discussed the rationale, research support, and strategies for implementation.”

Early on it was the aim to have a localised core vocabulary used by AAC users in Doha with a set of words that were based around a symbol vocabulary collected from therapists, teachers and parents in specialist schools and clinics.  The original list was largely based on an English core vocabulary taken from the  100 frequently used core words provided by Prentke Romich Company (PRC),  with a considerable number of fringe words – mainly nouns as can be seen from the most frequently used ones.

11 most commonly used words

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Now an Arabic word list has been developed, built up thanks to collaboration with 8 Doha based institutions.   Description of data origins for Core vocab.  The AAC user lists contain around 1000 words and the initial analysis has shown an interesting set of frequently used Arabic words which still need more accurate analysis and checks against other lists.  The top 20 translated into English (with frequency in brackets) are at the moment:

I (16), car (13), ball (12), on (11), banana (11), to (10), he went (10), work (10), house (9), he sat (9), bicycle (9). clock/watch (9), in (9), chair (9), I want (8), aeroplane (8), pen (8), was (8), he played (8), flower / rose (8)

Arabic top 20 words

 

 

signing young in Arabic

Signing young in Arabic (taken from ‘ndictative dictionary’ provided by The Qatar Society for Rehabilitation of Special Needs)

We also have access to a list of words collected by the Qatar Society for Rehabilitation of Special Needs for those who are deaf or have hearing impairments and are using sign language in Qatar and we are beginning to collect words used when teaching Arabic to children and those wishing to speak Arabic as a second language.

 

 

 

It is felt that these three collections should be representative of the types of vocabulary needed as a basis for the dictionary.  The intention is to analyse the collections looking for similarities in the words used between the lists, frequency of use and comparisons with the English core vocabularies used at the start of the project.

References

Zangari, C. (2012).Helping the general education team support students who use AAC. Perspectives on Augmentative and Alternative Communication, 21:82;91. (Accessed 22nd February, 2015 http://www.minspeak.com/students/documents/%20Zangari.pdf)

VanTatenhove, Gail M. (2013) Core Vocabulary with Emergent & Context-Dependent Communicators in Special Education Classrooms (Accessed 22nd February, 2015  http://www.vantatenhove.com/files/handouts/CoreVocabWithECDCommunicators.pdf )

VanTatenhove, Gail M. (2007 Normal Language Development, Generative Language & AAC (Accessed 22nd February, 2015 http://www.vantatenhove.com/files/papers/LangDevelopmentIntervention/NormalLanguage&AAC.pdf )

Symbol Manager changes to suit the needs of the voters

Feedback from participants involved  in the voting has resulted in some changes to the interface for the Symbol Manager.  There has been the introduction of a quick voting screen that removes the clutter causing problems and allows the user to see a large image of the symbol alongside the presentation of the criteria.

quick vote screen

There was also a discussion about the criteria as some felt it would be better to have the image showing without the symbol label but later several therapists asked for the label to be available in English, MSA and Qatari not just MSA. However, there may be slight differences in the translation and this will need to be discussed.

It was decided to stay with the closed-ended questions used to measure iconicity of each symbol and to keep the five point scale rather than the seven point scale mentioned by Evans et al (2006). The optimal length of the Likert scale is a complex subject and can affect the end result (Friedman and Amoo, 1999a).

In trying to keep the criteria scales as simple as possible it appears that one can re-scale results when comparing a seven point scale to a five point scale (Dawes, 2008) and it is even possible to have more clear cut decisions if a shorter scale is used (Foddy, 1993).  There was also the debate about having a mid-point where there is thought to be a tendency to choose 3 in the case of a 5 point Likert scale.  However Lietz (2008) points out that the research shows

“response without the middle. point had lower validity and higher random error
variance, indicating that people randomly chose other available response
options when the middle option was not available. This desirability of having
a neutral middle point to increase the reliability and validity of response
scales has also been confirmed by a meta-analysis of 87 experiments of
question design reported by Saris and Gallhofer (2007).”

The next set of voting results will come via the Quick Vote system which was piloted by Tullah with 20 therapists and teachers initially using paper based  versions of the system to discuss the best way forward as well as issues around the style of the symbols.  This will be discussed in the next report as Nawar has now made it possible for Symbol Manager to export voting data directly to Excel using Power Pivot. 

References

Dawes, J.(2008)  “Do data characteristics change according to the number of scale points used ? An experiment using 5 point, 7 point and 10 point scales”. International Journal of Market Research, Vol. 50, 1, 2008

Evans D, Bowick L, Johnson M, Blenkhorn P (2006) Using iconicity to evaluate symbol use. In: Proceedings of the 10th international conference on computers helping people. Linz, Austria, pp 874–881

Foddy, W. (1993). Constructing questions for interviews and questionnaires: Theory and practice. Melbourne: Cambridge University

Friedman, Hershey H. and Taiwo Amoo (1999a). “Rating the Rating Scales.” Journal of Marketing Management, 9 (Winter), 114-123.

Lietz, P. (2010). Research into questionnaire design – a summary of the literature. International Journal of Market Research, 52(2), 249-272.

Voting to make symbol choices – update on progress

Over the last few months we have been deciding whether we could use a symbol set that best suited users and their carers as well as complementing what is already in place.  It was decided that it would be useful to have a series of sessions with experts looking at the issues.  The video below explains the stages we have reached and is going to be used at a series of meetings in Doha.

The Arabic Symbol Dictionary Progress transcript can be downloaded and below can be seen the PowerPoint that is used in the video and available on Slideshare.