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Jeddah - Yasmine El Tohamy - MAKKAH: A Jeddah teacher has been granted a patent for an Arabic tablet that she developed to help visually impaired students perform mathematical calculations.
Aminah bint Abdullah Al-Zahrani’s invention was acknowledged by the King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology, and was also registered with the World Intellectual Property Organization.
Al-Zahrani told Arab News that she and a specialized team carried out research into mathematical aids for partially sighted individuals in Canada, the US, and Southeast Asia.
“We found that most countries in the world have the same problem, especially in the Gulf and Yemen,” she said.
In 2005, the researchers developed a prototype they described as a “learning tablet in Braille.”
This was developed and expanded until the final form of the invention was reached in 2019.
Successful trials of the device were conducted at Al-Noor Institute for Girls in Jeddah and Ebsar Foundation, which provides rehabilitation for visually impaired people.
Al-Zahrani said that the tablet allows visually impaired students to carry out math calculations; learn letters, words, and sentences in Arabic and English; and develop familiarity with some other subjects, such as chemistry.
The tablet consists of seven parts: the base, surface, lines set to carry out calculations, Braille cells, a cover, and a hinge to connect the tablet’s cover to its base.
Al-Zahrani said that her experience as a teacher gave her an insight into the shortcomings of existing tools for the visually impaired.
“These tools often lacked the requisite flexibility concerning size, weight, and storage, with components frequently prone to misplacement. Safety was another pressing concern, as certain tools were composed of materials such as lead and iron,” she said.
“The numerical and symbolic representations used in these tools often failed to align with Braille or the content of educational books, adding an extra layer of complexity for students who were already grappling with memorizing multiple sets of symbols.”
Al-Zahrani’s tablet and its Braille cells are user-friendly and precisely sized according to Braille standards.
More importantly, the device ensures the stability of Braille cells during calculations, even when students are on the move, effectively eliminating concerns about misplacement or loss.
The tablet not only enhances the learning experience, but also preserves the sense of touch, a cornerstone of visually impaired education.
At the Al-Noor Institute for Girls in Jeddah, a sample group of female students from various educational levels was used to assess the invention’s practicality and efficacy, with encouraging results.
The institute’s math instructors also endorsed the tablet, and praised its application in teaching languages, arithmetic, and other subjects.
Successful trials of the device were also conducted at the Ebsar Foundation, which provides rehabilitation for visually impaired people.
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