SWING project II University Abdelmalek Essaâdi of Tetouan
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The University Abdelmalek Essaâdi, hereinafter UAE, is located in the city of Tetouan, in the north of Morocco. It has 60,000 students, 90 of them are visually impaired, 16 of them blind, 15 with mobility problems and 6 with hearing problems. It is a significant number of students with disabilities, therefore they are working on some projects to facilitate access in equal opportunities to higher education.
The vice-president of the UAE welcomed us and, regarding disability and university in Morocco, he guaranteed that it was the moment to make decisions, to look for solution afterwards. In UAE a lot of activities to encourage support for their students with disabilities are made, the last activity carried out was a music festival in which a disabled student from the University composed and interpreted a song.
In general, campus accessibility is getting better and better, with the installation of ramps, but nowadays there are still some physical barriers like steps and other pavements. Regarding the accessibility of the buildings, students complain about the lack of elevators to access the buildings, which is a huge obstacle for physical impaired students. To solve this, the accessibility centre has on many occasions changed the classroom location of these students to the ground floor.
In the facilities of the accessibility centre, located in the former Rectorate building of the UAE, dozens of adapted computers have been installed; to be precise, the screen reader NVDA among others has been installed in those computers and the magnifier in Windows7 is used by low vision people.
Furthermore, different support hardware products can be found, like: TeleLupas, a portable magnifier, Braille displays, joystick mouses for people with important mobility problems in their hands and a device which, through a camera, if we pass it over a text, shows the braille code in relief.
In the UAE they have a problem, because, even though they have those support products both in hardware and in software, students don't have a lot of knowledge about how to use a computer and much less how to use those screen products. Those students need, as it is known in Spain, Tiflotechnology lessons -the ONCE foundation is the one teaching its members in Spain.
Besides, complexity is even greater for disabled students and this is because there is not a lot of documentation in Arabic about all these technologies. During our visit, there was a blind student from the University who had some knowledge of how to use support products like Jaws and he was in charge of giving advice to the other disabled students. He ended up giving a very interesting presentation about the good practices for the attention of blind people, and he read it through the voice output of his screen reader: Jaws.
Entrepreneur with disability
One of the most emotional moments was in Tangier. We attended the final round of an international competition for entrepreneurs from North Africa, with more than 1,000 participants from countries such as Tunisia, Algeria, Egypt and Morocco itself. Within the 20 finalist selected business projects, one was the project of a UAE blind student, his name is Abdelbari. And when it was his turn to present his entrepreneurial idea, SWING international partners and about fifteen students with disabilities from the University got into the showroom. For them it was an unforgettable experience, which builds their hopes up and very exciting despite adversity; Abdelbari is an example for them and for everyone.
I had the opportunity to speak to him, apart from Arabic, he speaks French, English and Spanish, and we spoke in this last language. He told me about his idea: he wants to create a physiotherapy company. I told him that in Spain it was one of the most common professional possibilities among blind people and that the ONCE Foundation has some researches on physiotherapy.
We spoke about his preferences, he likes using Jaws as a screen reader and he added my contact information in his Nokia mobile phone with Mobile Speak screen reader.
The University Abdelmalek Essaâdi has supported and kept him company in the whole process. They are doing their best to help him as well as professors and administration staff from the University are doing with the SWING project. Congratulations, because you are doing an admirable job.
Soon the next article: SWING project III University Ibn Tofail in Kenitra