Marhaba! Welcome! The Assistive Educational Technology project explores the role that computing technology can play in developing educational tools for visually-impaired and deaf communities in Qatar and around the world. Faculty, research staff, and students at Carnegie Mellon University (Doha and Pittsburgh campuses) are currently developing and field testing automated tutors and educational games to enhance the lives of these populations.
Despite the importance of literacy to employment, social well-being, and health, the literacy rate of the visually-impaired and deaf populations are quite low. For visually-impaired, braille is the primary method of reading and writing. It is a tactile system in which embossed dots representing letters, symbols, and numbers can be read with the fingers. The primary method of communication for the deaf is sign language, a form of manual communication that combines hand shapes, orientation and movement of the hands, arms or body, and facial expressions to express fluidly a deaf speaker's thoughts.
A significant challenge in education for both visually-impaired and deaf is that they are minority populations and often have less guided practice in communication. As a result, they have fewer interactions with the larger community, which would normally reinforce their literacy and communication skills. Furthermore, very few sighted and hearing people learn to communicate in braille or sign language, which creates further barriers to communication. Finally, educational technology primarily focuses on the majority, thus few automated tutors and games have been created for visually-impaired and deaf children. Our project aims to remedy this situation by developing assistive technology to enhance education for these populations around the world.