Class of 2019, one year later: Aldana Al-Mohannadi explores how tech can help the elderly and persons with disabilities
One year ago, the Class of 2019 graduated from Carnegie Mellon University in Qatar, a Qatar Foundation partner university. We are catching up with just a few of these young men and women to learn what they have done, and what they will be doing next.
As a student, Aldana Al-Mohannadi was drawn to the human side of Information Systems. “I never wanted a corporate job, I wanted to find ways I could help people. That was the main aspect I was weighing when I was choosing my career path.”
As she approached graduation, Aldana applied to non-profit agencies around Qatar. When she heard back from Mada – Assistive Technology Center, she was intrigued.
“I knew I wanted to use technology within the education sector, and with Mada Center, I could research how technologies can improve the lives of people with disabilities. Mada works directly with people if they are having specific technology issues, developing a customized solution. But they also work with entities around Doha to build a more accessible infrastructure.”
Aldana joined Mada Center after graduation as an information and communication technology (ICT) accessibility researcher. Her work has become even more critical with the COVID-19 pandemic, which has affected many people with disabilities in ways that can be difficult to predict.
For instance, since the pandemic began Mada Center has fielded many requests from elderly people who were socially distancing from relatives, but wanted to stay in touch. Many video apps, however, are too complex to use for people who have little digital experience.
Aldana researched which applications are accessible and easy to use for the elderly, and held a focus group to get feedback. “There’s a common saying within the community of persons with disabilities: nothing about us, without us. We have to have their perspective and feedback to truly understand if a solution will work.”
After developing a solid understanding of the community’s needs, Aldana shared her research with institutes across Qatar that serve the elderly population.
As she looks ahead, Aldana sees herself making a real difference in the way students are educated in Qatar. “Carnegie Mellon prepares you in ways that you wouldn’t consider, not just academically. CMU-Q helped me with the confidence to take on a position like this, to plan for graduate studies, and to believe that my work can really help people.”