Posted on April 29, 2018

When Qatar Foundation (QF) student Ragia Hassan met members of the deaf community on the first day of her Audiovisual Translation Access class, she knew she wanted to use her skills to help them improve their reading and writing skills.

Ragia, who will graduate this week with a Masters of Arts in Audiovisual Translation (MAAT) from Hamad Bin Khalifa University’s (HBKU’s) Translation & Interpreting Institute (TII), focused her research on the use of ‘enriched subtitling’ as an access tool to help deaf users build a greater Arabic vocabulary. “What really struck me during my research was how much the deaf people I worked with wanted to learn,” she said. “This was my first experience interacting with members of the deaf community, and from day one I knew I wanted to shape my research to help them.”

Ragia, who is a mother of three small children, had been out of formal education for more than 15-years prior to beginning the MAAT course at TII in Education City. “I had always wanted to continue my education. I didn’t know if it would be easy to go back to college and study; however, the faculty at TII and all the staff members have really supported me throughout my two years at HBKU,” she said. Ragia’s commitment to lifelong learning is an example of the resilience shown by many graduates throughout this academic year, who choose to pursue their universal right to education regardless of personal or geopolitical challenges.

Ragia has worked as a journalist and editor for a number of organizations since completing her BA 15-years ago. “I have experienced many different media formats as a journalist and I really wanted to use my knowledge to help deaf people through Audiovisual Translation,” she said. “Deaf students in Qatar experience many issues when learning to read and write Arabic, it’s very difficult for them using traditional teaching methods. Although we had a small group, we experienced very positive results using enriched subtitling to build vocabulary.” Maryam Al-Masalmani, who also graduates this week from TII’s MAAT course, said she developed her research to help improve the museum and visual art experience for both blind and sighted audiences in Qatar.

“I have always enjoyed bringing art to all people, describing objects, and mediating as a translator,” said Maryam, who used her research to work with Mathaf: Arab Museum of Modern Art in Education City to produce text and audio for artworks in both Modern Standard Arabic and in Urban Qatari Dialect. “I wrote the descriptions for the artworks from scratch and used them as part of my research. I also produced tactile images resembling some of the paintings on display that blind audiences could touch and get a feel for what the art is like. They found it really useful and it helped them to understand the small details of the artworks.”

Maryam joined the MAAT course in 2016 and described her journey with QF as “an exciting experience.” “I’m sad it’s ending now. From day one we were always learning something new,” she said. “I learned a lot of important skills during my time at TII, like how to designate and manage my time properly. There was a real sense that the tutors and all the faculty appreciated our work and would help us to achieve what we set out to do. “Through my research, there was also a real sense that I was providing an important service to the community – that, at TII, we are building a bridge between the academic world and the wider community. This course has given me the power to give something back, and also to help preserve the heritage of Qatar while increasing the community’s interest and involvement in heritage and art.”

Maryam said she is determined that her pursuit for knowledge will not end here. “I would really like to continue my education, through a PhD perhaps,” she added. “I would love to become part of the academic community – so my journey doesn’t stop here. I intend to take it further in the field of translation, accessibility, and linguistics.” Through the MAAT course, TII students also work regularly with organizations including Qatar Museums and the Doha Film Institute to develop audio descriptions and subtitles for exhibitions and film festivals to provide members of the blind community with resources to access major art and film events in Qatar.