“I CAN'T HEAR THE SERMON”
To commemorate International Week of the Deaf, Al Jazeera Media Network and Qatar Charity came together to organise a day-long discussion on how the deaf in the Arab world cope with their disability, with Gaza as a case study.
The day began with the airing of the documentary Stronger than Words which showed how the challenges of hearing disability are amplified by the unrest in Gaza. The heart-wrenching film threw light on some everyday struggles, like a young man expressing dejection about missing out on the Friday sermon as he can't understand what's being said, a deaf couple taking their sick infant daughter to the doctor, and a mother trying to comfort her young deaf son who is traumatised by the bombings.
There are 10 million deaf people in the Arab world and the need of the hour is to integrate them into the society. CEO of Qatar Charity, Yousef Ahmed Al Kuwari, complimented the film and stressed of the importance of deeper cooperation among different entities to address the issue. An example of this is the automatic subtitling software that the Qatar Computing Research Institute has been working on, which will soon be implemented across Al Jazeera's Arabic programming. QCRI's Director of Arabic Content Initiatives, Majd Abbar, who spoke at the event, said that their automatic audio to text conversion software is accurate to upwards of 85%. “We have currently trained the computer on news in classical Arabic. The challenge is to help the software understand the different Arabic dialects,” he said. Al Jazeera said it is currently testing the software and hopes to roll it out across its channels from November this year.
Several other discussions on treatments for hearing loss, socio-economic impact of deafness, access to information and services and many other aspects of the issue were carried out through the day.
QCRI's Director of Arabic Content Initiatives, MAJD ABBAR; CEO of Qatar Charity, YOUSEF AHMED AL KUWARI; a sign language
intrepreter at the event