The Tawasol symbol website has been available for the last two months for beta testing. There are still many updates and fixes to be done but now the site has been submitted to Google and can be found by searching for Tawasol Symbols!
We have been keeping statistics and since October with us all working on the site there are some figures to share. 684 views with 38% coming from new visitors and 62% returning visitors. The visitors come from the following countries:
There have been 21 downloads of symbol files from the home page, with more downloads occurring in Arabic compared to English. Many of these will have been test situations so 12 downloads came from UK, 7 from Qatar and 2 from USA:
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We are still building the dictionary and the only entries seen on the Tawasol symbol website are those entries that have both Arabic and English lexical concepts. The Symbol Dictionary Management system has many more entries that still require work.
The individual words or phrases can be searched or browsed via category selections and depending on the language chosen once the symbols appear they can be selected to see more information and their links to other symbols of similar meaning or in the opposing language. So a search for ‘camel’ will bring up the English choice that then offers the choices in Arabic.
Search for ‘camel in English to see the selection offered
Select the camel that you want to see with further information relating to that lexical entry
You are now viewing the Arabic lexical entry with the available information if you are using the English side of the website
The Arabic side of the website provides the user with a similar view.
In the coming months there will be over 500 Arabic / English lexical entries (with their appropriate symbols) being the most commonly used words in both languages for AAC use and spoken and written language learning. These words and phrases will be a combination of lists collected from AAC users in both languages and those words collected by external researchers and published as the most frequently used words in both languages gathered from speakers and written works.
The website development has begun as more symbols are being added to the database and over 120 have been accepted by participants voting via the symbol management system. These will be made available on the globalsymbols.com 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…
It 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.
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.
In recent weeks Nadine has begun to develop communication boards that are using the Arabic Symbol Dictionary customised symbols alongside ARASAAC symbols. This is all part of the ongoing development and evaluation process with participants in particular AAC users whose opinions we are seeking. Examples are provided below as a slide share presentation and soon therapists will be able to download the sample symbols developed under a creative commons license.
Arabic Symbol Dictionary Sample Communication Boards
Mohammed and Prayers
Introducing Mohammed, a 24 year old symbol user from Qatar who communicates using a Tobii eye gaze system. Mohammed has worked with a speech and language therapist to develop a personalised vocabulary that includes the use of localised and culturally sensitive symbols in particular those related to his religion.
Mohammed was finding it hard to take part in the daily prayers as a Muslim and felt isolated when other members of the family worked through the various actions and he had to sit quietly watching.
With the support of the Tawasol symbols Mohammed and his therapist worked through his exact requirements and were able to provide a way for him to take part in the prayers with his family that was both respectful and at one with that special part of the day.
When Mohammed was asked about his feelings concerning the new symbols he said:
“Now that I have my system and the graphics I can take a much fuller part in prayer, as each step of the prayer takes place I point my eyes at the symbol that represents that step. I sequence the images through my eyes as others sequence their movements. Its hard to explain how important this is to me, I know there are others who want to take part in prayer alongside their family and community. By working with people who understand, it can be a lot easier to do than you might expect.”
A further quote from the speech therapist indicates the way in which culturally and linguistically sensitive symbol systems can have a huge impact on AAC users.
“Building a system for communication is not just about the people communicating. Here in Qatar we share many daily experiences around our faith and culture, as therapists we are very good at helping people express their physical and emotional needs, but perhaps not so good at helping those that want to express their spiritual need, their belief and faith. it is so easy to ask the wrong questions, and hence never get those crucial answers if there is no common cultural experience.”
Maryam enjoying a weekend out
Finally Maryam has been able to tell her story using symbols that are much more relevant as would be explained at AAATE 2015 later in the year.
Maryam using ARASAAC symbols
Maryam using Tawasol symbols