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January 30, 2004

Glove in hand may open up new world for deaf and dumb

From: Khaleej Times - Jan 30, 2004

By Hani M Bathish

DUBAI - A device to turn sign language into audible sound can open up a whole new world of communication and interaction for the deaf and dumb.

A glove that can translate hand movement and sign language into computer generated speech, is one such device currently being developed by the Prince Salman Centre for Disability Research, which recently took part in the Dubai International Rehabilitation Forum (Rehab 2004).

Arabic sign language recognition is an on-going research programme, which uses a specially fitted glove linked to a computer to translate the signs made by the user into spoken words.

Waleed K. Al Deaigy, Assistant Executive Director for Public Relations and Media Affairs, told Khaleej Times that the centre has 18 on-going research projects and is planning to treble its budget and the number of projects in the near future.

"We aim to be one of 15 world wide centres of excellence in research on disabilities. We are the only research centre of our kind in the Arab speaking world and the Muslim world," he said.

"Prince Salman bin Abdulaziz, who is chairman of the board of trustees, recently announced the setting up of a founder's council for the centre. To be a member of the council an individual or establishment has to pay Saudi Riyal 5 million. To date we have 60 members in the founders council. Our aim is to generate more funds to support our programmes," Mr Deaigy said.

Among the many research programmes run by the centre is speech and language development in children, screening of new born children for endocrine and metabolic diseases, the design and implementation of computerised Braille environment, pre-implantation genetic diagnosis for the prevention of genetic diseases, a birth defects registry for the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and hunting for one of the autism genes that might be linked to osteoporosis with renal tubular acidosis.

The Prince Salman Centre for Disability Research also worked on the drafting of the Provision Code for Persons with Disabilities in the kingdom, a law protecting the right of the disabled in society, which was issued in accordance with Royal decree No. M/37 dated 23/9/1421H, which approved the decision of the council of ministers No. 224 dated 15/9/1421H.

The objectives of the centre's new born screening programme include laying the foundations for the development of a national system for identification and treatment of inherited metabolic and endocrine diseases, as well as genetic counselling and awareness programme for families and training for paediatricians to allow them to better treat and detect such diseases.

"Current evidence shows that a new born screening programme would identify and save between 400 to 500 children each year. The overall goal of this research is to ascertain the exact incidence and nature of these diseases," he said.

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