Multi-method approach to improving university accessibility for blind students
- Inclusion Programme
- King Abdulaziz University
- Country of Implementation
- Saudi Arabia
- Asia & Pacific
- Start Year
- First published
“We are committed to making King Abdulaziz University an equal learning environment that empowers people with disabilities to reach their maximum potential.” Prof. Abdulmonem bin Abdul Salam Al-Hayani, Vice President of Academic Affairs
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.
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.
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.