“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.

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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

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