A Sanad Relay Centre interpreter talks with an executive at Dubai Immigration Authority who is hearing impaired. Alex Atack for The National
A Sanad Relay Centre interpreter talks with an executive at Dubai Immigration Authority who is hearing impaired. Alex Atack for The National

Bridging the communication gap



DUBAI // In a small, quiet room in Jumeirah, operators seated in front of computers make quick, firm hand movements signing with video callers.

The Sanad Relay Centre, launched by the Community Development Authority last year, provides interpretation services – from sign language to speech – and advice for Arabic and English sign language users.

From an application that can be downloaded on PCs or smart devices, a service user makes a video call or sends a video message asking for translation assistance or advice from the Sanad Relay staff.

It could be they are asking for an interpreter to have a live video call with their doctor – or they have sent a video detailing what they want to tell the doctor, with the centre sending back a video message with the translation from sign to speech.

“People call if they are with the police, immigration or an ambulance worker calls for help with translation,” said Omer Ibrahim Osman, a sign language interpreter with the CDA.

“Some deaf people call to communicate with their manager at work or to search for a job. We even got a video marketing a clothes store.”

The CDA social workers brought in the UAE Deaf Association to help then understand the obstacles the sign language community faced.

Calls are handled from 7.30am until 2.30pm by three operators, who are also trained to respond to queries on disabilities, or just provide an understanding presence.

“When people call it’s apparent that sometimes they just need someone to have a chat,” said Khaled Al Kamda, CDA’s director general and the inventor of the service.

“It’s important to help this community access the same services we can reach – to have a society without barriers,” Mr Kamda said. “It sometimes feels like a shutdown for them because what we take for granted is not available unless they take someone along. They do not like being dependent.”

The service offers users some relief from reliance on friends or family in carrying out day-to-day activities such as interacting with a government office or staff at a store.

“I use this to communicate inside and outside the office,” signed Hawa Ali, an immigration department executive with hearing loss.

“It should be used by all authorities – police, courts to connect with people like us.”

Part of the next phase of the development of the service is to install the system on tablets, mobiles and computers in government customer service and call centres.

The CDA interpreters are conducting sign language training sessions with government authorities, such as Dubai Municipality, Dubai Ambulance Services and the Roads and Transport Authority. The organisation has also started talks with authorities to make data charges for video conferencing cheaper for the hearing impaired to enable easy access to services.

While the centre serves more than 3,000 deaf and mute people in the UAE, the app – set up in partnership with Microsoft – can be downloaded free from the CDA homepage by anyone across the world.

That meant the centre has also received video call requests for Arabic and English sign to speech translation from countries including Saudi Arabia, India, Pakistan, Sudan and Germany.

Plans to extend the timings of the service and include other languages – sign language differs from country to country, so Spanish, Chinese, British, American sign language is different – have yet to take off as skilled interpreters are scarce and expensive.

However, the centre is ambitious and tenacious. It plans to allow people with sign skills in other languages to register as volunteers and help connect people with hearing loss who speak other languages.

“We want to create a global application to be used in any country, not from this centre, but to connect people all over the world,” Mr Kamda said.

“We want to give this community the freedom to reach out without always having someone with them.”

rtalwar@thenational.ae

Key fixtures from January 5-7

Watford v Bristol City

Liverpool v Everton

Brighton v Crystal Palace

Bournemouth v AFC Fylde or Wigan

Coventry v Stoke City

Nottingham Forest v Arsenal

Manchester United v Derby

Forest Green or Exeter v West Brom

Tottenham v AFC Wimbledon

Fleetwood or Hereford v Leicester City

Manchester City v Burnley

Shrewsbury v West Ham United

Wolves v Swansea City

Newcastle United v Luton Town

Fulham v Southampton

Norwich City v Chelsea

If you go

There are regular flights from Dubai to Addis Ababa with Ethiopian Airlines with return fares from Dh1,700. Nashulai Journeys offers tailormade and ready made trips in Africa while Tesfa Tours has a number of different community trekking tours throughout northern Ethiopia. The Ben Abeba Lodge has rooms from Dh228, and champions a programme of re-forestation in the surrounding area.



UAE currency: the story behind the money in your pockets
Company Profile

Company name: Cargoz
Date started: January 2022
Founders: Premlal Pullisserry and Lijo Antony
Based: Dubai
Number of staff: 30
Investment stage: Seed

UAE Tour 2020

Stage 1: The Pointe Palm Jumeirah - Dubai Silicon Oasis, 148km
Stage 2: Hatta - Hatta Dam, 168km​​​​​​​
Stage 3: Al Qudra Cycle Track - Jebel Hafeet, 184km​​​​​​​
Stage 4: Zabeel Park - Dubai City Walk, 173km​​​​​​​
Stage 5: Al Ain - Jebel Hafeet, 162km​​​​​​​
Stage 6: Al Ruwais - Al Mirfa, 158km​​​​​​​
Stage 7: Al Maryah Island - Abu Dhabi Breakwater, 127km

EMIRATES'S REVISED A350 DEPLOYMENT SCHEDULE

Edinburgh: November 4 (unchanged)

Bahrain: November 15 (from September 15); second daily service from January 1

Kuwait: November 15 (from September 16)

Mumbai: January 1 (from October 27)

Ahmedabad: January 1 (from October 27)

Colombo: January 2 (from January 1)

Muscat: March 1 (from December 1)

Lyon: March 1 (from December 1)

Bologna: March 1 (from December 1)

Source: Emirates

Director: Nag Ashwin

Starring: Prabhas, Saswata Chatterjee, Deepika Padukone, Amitabh Bachchan, Shobhana

Rating: ★★★★

ABU DHABI'S KEY TOURISM GOALS: BY THE NUMBERS

By 2030, Abu Dhabi aims to achieve:

• 39.3 million visitors, nearly 64% up from 2023

• Dh90 billion contribution to GDP, about 84% more than Dh49 billion in 2023

• 178,000 new jobs, bringing the total to about 366,000

• 52,000 hotel rooms, up 53% from 34,000 in 2023

• 7.2 million international visitors, almost 90% higher compared to 2023's 3.8 million

• 3.9 international overnight hotel stays, 22% more from 3.2 nights in 2023

Specs: 2024 McLaren Artura Spider

Engine: 3.0-litre twin-turbo V6 and electric motor
Max power: 700hp at 7,500rpm
Max torque: 720Nm at 2,250rpm
Transmission: Eight-speed dual-clutch auto
0-100km/h: 3.0sec
Top speed: 330kph
Price: From Dh1.14 million ($311,000)
On sale: Now

BUNDESLIGA FIXTURES

Saturday, May 16 (kick-offs UAE time)

Borussia Dortmund v Schalke (4.30pm) 
RB Leipzig v Freiburg (4.30pm) 
Hoffenheim v Hertha Berlin (4.30pm) 
Fortuna Dusseldorf v Paderborn  (4.30pm) 
Augsburg v Wolfsburg (4.30pm) 
Eintracht Frankfurt v Borussia Monchengladbach (7.30pm)

Sunday, May 17

Cologne v Mainz (4.30pm),
Union Berlin v Bayern Munich (7pm)

Monday, May 18

Werder Bremen v Bayer Leverkusen (9.30pm)

The specs

Engine: 6.2-litre supercharged V8

Power: 712hp at 6,100rpm

Torque: 881Nm at 4,800rpm

Transmission: 8-speed auto

Fuel consumption: 19.6 l/100km

Price: Dh380,000

On sale: now

Company profile

Company name: Ogram
Started: 2017
Founders: Karim Kouatly and Shafiq Khartabil
Based: Dubai, UAE
Industry: On-demand staffing
Number of employees: 50
Funding: More than $4 million
Funding round: Series A
Investors: Global Ventures, Aditum and Oraseya Capital

Company profile

Company name: Fasset
Started: 2019
Founders: Mohammad Raafi Hossain, Daniel Ahmed
Based: Dubai
Sector: FinTech
Initial investment: $2.45 million
Current number of staff: 86
Investment stage: Pre-series B
Investors: Investcorp, Liberty City Ventures, Fatima Gobi Ventures, Primal Capital, Wealthwell Ventures, FHS Capital, VN2 Capital, local family offices

Bundesliga fixtures

Saturday, May 16 (kick-offs UAE time)

Borussia Dortmund v Schalke (4.30pm) 

RB Leipzig v Freiburg (4.30pm) 

Hoffenheim v Hertha Berlin (4.30pm) 

Fortuna Dusseldorf v Paderborn  (4.30pm) 

Augsburg v Wolfsburg (4.30pm) 

Eintracht Frankfurt v Borussia Monchengladbach (7.30pm)

Sunday, May 17

Cologne v Mainz (4.30pm),

Union Berlin v Bayern Munich (7pm)

Monday, May 18

Werder Bremen v Bayer Leverkusen (9.30pm)