Deaf communities in Arabic-speaking countries have a vital new tool: a digital-safety sign language dictionary. All online and visual, it’s another step toward building an inclusive culture of digital resilience across the Middle East and North Africa (MENA).
Across the MENA region, more and more people are turning to digital technologies to surmount old barriers and create new socio-economic opportunities. But this also exposes people to new digital threats from hackers, scammers, harassers and other bad actors. That’s why our Salam@ initiative is helping at-risk people and groups strengthen their digital resilience—through awareness campaigns, training, support and more.
Grappling with digital realities, risks and responses increasingly depends on a special vocabulary. But as the terminology has evolved in Arabic, there has been no widely-accepted sign-language equivalence. That puts Deaf communities at a serious disadvantage. And it’s time for this to change.
MENA’s first dictionary of DS signs
On November 25, Salam@ launched the first online dictionary of Arabic digital safety (DS) terms in sign language. Straightforward and accessible, it presents visual demonstrations of 100+ terms, covering essentials of digital tech, online platforms, risks and responses.
This tool channels the efforts more than 20 specialists from nine countries: Algeria, Bahrain, Iraq, Kuwait, Libya, Mauritania, Morocco, Qatar and Tunisia. Working with local organizations supporting Deaf communities, they’ve built a unified lexicon of DS signs. Getting there meant surveying today’s patchwork of related signs. It meant filling gaps with new signs. It meant engaging stakeholders from the community, media, academia and beyond. And it meant working together across borders to land on canonical signed expressions.
The result is a practical tool for the MENA region’s Deaf communities. We hope it will help more people take safer advantage of new opportunities online. And by including more people in more DS conversations, we hope this will help foster a wider culture of digital resilience.
What deaf communities are saying:
Language is powerful
Imagine joining a workshop on using email safely…without being able to use widely-accepted terms like phishing, encryption or even email. Senseless frustration, right? This shared terminology underpins much of our thinking, teaching and learning about the digital world. Everyone deserves the basic opportunity to learn it, use it and be understood—not only in print, but in real time—through expression spoken or signed.
Of course, the Salam@ team produces printed DS resources that Deaf people access. But our frontline experience also teaches us about the power of dynamic communication. Conversation is the heart of our team’s training, technical support and organizational capacity-building. And so every day, we see why bringing Arabic DS terminology into a unified sign language is such a valuable step.
This is about supporting DS conversations, learning and growth within Deaf communities across MENA. It’s about empowering interpreters to help open up spaces that bring hearing and Deaf people together. And it’s about fostering a more inclusive culture of digital resilience for the region—which has always been Salam@’s enduring goal.
Explore: Digital Safety Sign Language Dictionary (Arabic)
With support from The SecDev Foundation, the Salam@ initiative promotes digital resilience across the Middle East and North Africa—with a focus on women, girls and vulnerable populations.