Innovative Practice 2020 on Inclusive Education and ICT

Multi-method approach to improving university accessibility for blind students

In 2018 King Abdulaziz University (KAU), a public university in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, launched a project to make its campus and facilities accessible for students with disabilities. Focusing on students with visual impairments, the university laid down tactile pathways and Bluetooth beacons, which connect to a mobile application, and it converted textbooks to DAISY format. Additionally, KAU has launched a testing centre and an exhibit to educate the community about disability rights. KAU plans to expand this project, including the tactile pathways which are currently being used by 100 students at the university.

“We are committed to making King Abdulaziz University an equal learning environment that empowers people with disabilities to reach their maximum potential.”

Abdulmonem bin Abdul Salam Al-HayaniVice President of Academic Affairs
About the practice at a glance
Name of Innovative Practice:Empowering students with disabilities initiative at KAU
Organisation:King Abdulaziz University
Country
of Implementation
Saudi Arabia
Start Year2018

FACTS & FIGURES

  • Some 100 students are using the tactile paths and 50 students are using the DAISY-format textbooks.
  • There are four kilometres of tactile paving on the university campus, including Bluetooth beacons for navigation.

PROBLEMS TARGETED

Students with visual impairments in Saudi Arabia have difficulty in navigating campuses and accessing books due to inaccessible environments and educational materials.

SOLUTION, INNOVATION, AND IMPACT

KAU, a large public university in Jeddah, has around 1,100 students with disabilities, including 200 with visual impairments. To make the educational experience accessible for blind and visually impaired students, KAU identified three challenges: physical navigation of the campus, accessibility of textbooks, and accessible examinations.

KAU laid down four kilometres of tactile paving and installed Bluetooth beacons that connect to a mobile application called Show Me The Way, which provides audio guidance to direct students to their desired destination on campus. Next, KAU used DAISY, an internationally-renown digital accessible information format, to make books for foundation year students available in audio formats. Finally, KAU created an accessible testing centre where students can take exams independently in different formats. In addition, the university created an exhibit called Life on Wheels to educate the community about the rights and capabilities of people with disabilities.

As a result, personal assistance for navigation at KAU is no longer needed, and the number of complaints about university accessibility has decreased substantially. In 2019, some 50 students are using books available in DAISY formats.

A man is navigating his way outside the university complex through tactile paving and his stick.

A blind project participant navigates his way through tactile paving using his white stick.

FUNDING, OUTLOOK AND TRANSFERABILITY

For the first phase of the initiative, KAU received a grant of $250,000 from the government as part of Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 plan.

The Office of National Transformation 2020, a part of the Ministry of Higher Education, has approved the second phase of the project, for which the university received $2 million in the latter half of 2019.

KAU has received requests from other universities in the kingdom to demonstrate the mobile application and has signed an agreement with Um-Alqura University to install the system.

 

FACTSHEET

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LINKS AND FURTHER READING