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BT to help sound, speech handicapped in UAE

BT announced it has signed a contract with the Ministry of Social Affairs in the United Arab Emirates to deliver technology and services for its Echo of Silence project. The nationwide project aims to enable people with speech and hearing impediments to use telephony and internet service with the help of technology, such as voice to text and text to voice relay and internet relay.

Speaking at the signing ceremony, Her Excellency Mariam Mohammad Khalfan Al Roumi, Minister of Social Affairs, said, “The project aims to enable people with speech and hearing impediments to communicate with each other and with other people in society by providing them with advanced technology services and modern communication equipments.”

The Echo of Silence project is conducted in accordance with the principles of equality and equal opportunities provided for by the terms of the Federal Law No. 29 of 2006 concerning the rights of the disabled, including the provision of the environment to ensure qualified people with disabilities have easy access to information and communication with the community around him.

The project, delivered under the supervision of the national Telecom Regulatory Authority, draws on BT’s extensive expertise in developing technologies to aid of hearing in its home market.

BT researchers in UK were involved with the National Health System in developing and producing first hearing aids back in 1948, a project that has recently been recognised as part of the UNESCO World Heritage.

In the UK, the text relay service is provided free of charge and is simply activated by dialling 18001 before any landline, mobile or international number on a textphone. Customers can get a text relay assistant on the line to help with the call. The assistant then turns the written conversation into words, and the spoken response from words back into text. More than 1.5 million calls are logged using the service every year.

Wael El Kabbany, general manager, BT Middle East and North Africa, said: “We are very proud the Ministry of Social Affairs has chosen our technology and know-how for one of the most ambitious social inclusion projects in the country.”

The contract was signed by Her Excellency Mariam Mohammad Khalfan Al Roumi, Minister of Social Affairs; His Excellency Mohamed N. Al Ghanim, TRA Director General; and Wael El Kabbany, general manager, BT Middle East and North Africa.

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