x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

New phone service for the deaf

Deaf people will soon be able to communicate by telephone, using the Middle East's first text-to-voice service.

Deaf people will soon be able to communicate by telephone, using the Middle East's first text-to-voice service. The service, a collaboration between the Ministry of Social Affairs, the telecoms regulator and phone companies, will provide live transcription and speech synthesis for people who are deaf or have speech problems.

The Dh8 million (US$2.2m) "echo of silence" project is part of a partnership between the ministry and the Telcommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA), who signed an agreement yesterday. Mohamed al Ghanim, director general of the TRA, said the service would be available by November. The phone companies Du and Etisalat are also part of the project, as is the satellite company Yahsat, whose services include data-to-voice applications.

"The idea is to install an interface and call centre that will act as an intermediary to allow the deaf community to communicate with the rest of society," Mr al Ghanim said. He said the project would be funded by money raised from the telecoms sector, he said. The announcement comes two months after members of the deaf community presented the ministry with a white paper containing recommendations for improving services to help them assert their right to equality in society. The project is the first of its kind in the Middle East and part of the ministry's aim of making more services accessible to all segments of society.

"The memorandum that was signed today with the TRA is very important because it will allow people with disabilities to have access to modern technology services that respond to their needs," said Mariam al Roumi, Minister of Social Affairs. "This means that we have managed a transition from providing basic rights to the disabled community, such as education health and work, towards new horizons in relation to modern technology."

lmorris@thenational.ae