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.
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.
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