Mike Wald and E.A to Doha – Meetings and visits
Mar 15 @ 4:26 pm – Mar 18 @ 5:26 pm
AAATE Workshop – poster presentation
May 22 @ 11:30 am – May 23 @ 4:00 pm

AAATE Workshop 2014: Education in “Care and Assistive Technology”, Heerlen, The Netherlands, May 22 and 23 2014 (The program for this workshop can be found here.)

Professionals across Europe play a critical role in the successful application of AT for people with disability. The level of their knowledge and expertise regarding Assistive Technology is therefor essential. Education is a key element in building and maintaining the required expertise.

The 2014 AAATE workshop focusses on various aspects of AT education in Europe. The inspiring program highlights best practices and seeks discussion among members of the AAATE, ISG and their colleagues.

The program of the workshop addresses education covering technology aspects regarding both Assistive Technology supporting individual end-users but also the related field of Care Technology, supporting care providers. It will cover both the application of existing technology and the development of technological innovations. It will address both primary education as well as lifelong learning. A special interest will be given to Multi-disciplinary collaboration in support of development and application of AT and CT.

The workshop is of interest for healthcare professionals, technical developers and professionals and researchers in the domains of Assistive technology and Care technology. We look forward meeting you all in Heerlen, the Netherlands.

Meeting Annalu Waller @ University of Dundee
Jun 17 @ 11:00 am – 1:00 pm
16th biennial ISAAC conference 2014 @ Lisboa Congress Centre,
Jul 19 @ 8:30 am – Jul 20 @ 9:30 am

The ISAAC Biennial Conference program offers something for everyone with an interest in AAC. Presentations feature leading edge research, and clinical and educational interventions and innovations. People who use AAC share their experiences and perspectives. Posters focus on a wide range of topics, and the Exhibition showcases new technologies or applications of technology, products and services.

People who use AAC, individuals from emerging AAC nations (BUILD) and emerging researchers are eligible for travel grants. Details on the Awards and Scholarships page.

AAATE 2015 @ Budapest Congress Center with Novotel Hotel City
Sep 10 @ 8:45 am – Sep 15 @ 1:15 pm

Further information

AAATE is proud to announce the AAATE 2015 conference to be held in Budapest Congress Center with Novotel Hotel City
10 – 13 September 2015

Communication Matters 2014 – UK @ University of Leeds
Sep 14 @ 10:00 am – Sep 16 @ 11:00 am

The Communication Matters National AAC Conference is the UK’s leading annual AAC event, with a diverse programme of plenaries, presentations and exhibition held over two and a half days.The conference provides a unique forum to meet and exchange information with representatives from all disciplines associated with AAC, including people who use AAC, parents, carers, professionals and suppliers of AAC equipment. Communication Matters encourages and supports people who use AAC to attend.

Arabic Natural Language Processing Workshop collocated with EMNLP 2014 @ Renaissance Doha City Center Hotel,
Oct 25 all-day
TechShare Middle East @ Four Seasons hotel
Nov 4 – Nov 5 all-day
Qatar Foundation Annual Research Conference (ARC’14) @ Qatar National Convention Centre
Nov 15 – Nov 19 all-day
RAATE – Paper and Poster presentation @ Gallery Suites, National Exhibition Centre (NEC),
Nov 24 all-day
Arabic / English Symbol Dictionary: early dilemmas choosing core vocabularies and symbols

By Mrs E.A. Draffan -Senior Research Fellow – University of Southampton


There are many challenges facing those wishing to introduce symbol use for communication and literacy skill development in an Arabic / English environment where those working and caring for children using Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) systems may well be using the English language but parents are Arabic speakers.

There are very few published culturally suitable Arabic pictograms, icons, symbols or other graphical representations of language for use within the Arabic community, despite a growing recognition about the number of individuals who could benefit from this type of support. Their needs are currently being met by the use of externally developed Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) symbol systems using lexicons that have word for symbol translation which may not be entirely suitable for use within their surroundings. Some commercially available symbol sets have added additional Arabic symbols but have rarely published research to show reasons for their choices of particular images and the team are also aware that the use of symbols is no longer just occurring with those who have multilingual speech and language difficulties but also with many individuals who have cognitive and behavioural difficulties such as Autism[1].

Recent work in Qatar with the Hamad Medical Corporation and Mada Assistive Technology Centre has shown that there is often a mismatch between the core vocabularies required and those provided by available symbol sets as well as differences in the types of images or pictograms needed for the various groups of users. Simple word for symbol translation from English to Arabic is unsatisfactory[2] and in order to encourage literacy skills greater understanding of the morphology and semantics of both languages in this situation is required. It is also accepted that there are subtle differences in language development and introduction to literacy skills in both Arabic and English[3].

Research Methods The introduction of an entirely new symbol set into an already crowded market has not been considered necessary and it is hoped that the dictionary can become a repository for symbols that are available under a creative commons licence.  The research planned has been based on a participatory approach with the support of experts in the field and an Advisory Group based in Arabic speaking counties and the UK.  The Doha AAC Forum and users have already begun to vote on a series of symbols initially related to the English core vocabularies provided by teams in the various centres, clinics, schools and hospitals. The voting sessions aimed to help the researchers gain an insight into the cultural and linguistic suitability of symbol sets already available and the degree to which the symbols fitted their needs for both communication and literacy skill development.   Early FindingsThe initial voting has corroborated research already available in the field that many of the available symbols being used are unsatisfactory and experts wish to see several changes occurring to word / meaning relationships and the look and feel of the symbols.  Contrast levels, flexibility in sizes, word symbol matches and cultural sensitivities all require adaptations.

It is felt that there are also some early dilemmas facing the research team in the development of an Arabic / English Symbol Dictionary that need to be addressed, based around the degree to which users and those working with users will be able to:

  • Adapt and integrate a freely available symbol set that will work with the ones presently in use.
  • Allow for flexibility around the type of communication systems they wish to use.
  • Offer easily understood categorisation, search and gathering of symbols with words/multiwords in two languages.
  • Provide a base from which to allow AAC users to move from pictogram or image use to a system that allows for grapheme / phoneme recognition and the building blocks for literacy skills. 


This is the first year of the research into the building of an Arabic / English Symbol Dictionary and the findings to date suggest that in order to build flexibility into any symbol / word lexicon there needs to be an understanding of how users will make use of the dictionary.  Research has shown that there are many differences in the way Arabic AAC users may use symbols to build their sentences for communication[4] and learn to use lexicons for literacy purposes, especially when they are being supported by English speaking therapists and teachers but hearing the Arabic language all around them.  It is clear further research needs to be undertaken to ensure that the dictionary has multiple ways for browsing categories as well as for searches so that users can speedily find symbols / words and multiwords.  It is felt that concept coding[5] could provide the underpinning of the vocabularies with alphabetical and phoneme searches also being made possible.