Dubai to become disabled-friendly by 2020

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Experts from various government organisations on Wednesday discussed ways to achieve Dubai’s vision of transforming the city into disabled-friendly by 2020.

A panel discussion titled #Together Limitless focused on how Dubai’s infrastructure and tourism are being prepared to welcome everyone, including people with disabilities.

Organised by Emirates NBD’s flagship advocacy platform, the discussion was in line with the Government of Dubai’s ‘My Community’ vision to transform Dubai into a disabled-friendly city by 2020. Speakers included representatives from the Dubai Executive Council, the Roads and Transport Authority, Expo 2020 and Emirates NBD. The discussion, moderated by Ahmed bin Shabib, urbanist and co-founder of Brownbook and Cultural Engineering – was the fourth in a series of informal community dialogues which addressed a specific need for people of determination within the UAE.

The speakers highlighted the need to bring about a change in our attitudes (normalise our attitudes), create awareness and make society more inclusive for people with determination.

“We need to design and make our policies work for all regardless of their abilities,” said Dr Salem Al Shafel, director of policies and programmes – rights of people with disabilities (people of determination), at the general secretariat of the Executive Council of Dubai.

“Dubai’s Executive Council is working to make public buildings and city facilities friendly for people with disabilities by 2020. Many new public spaces must fulfil a new emirate-wide, disabled-friendly code.

“At the same time, many older buildings are also retrofitted to fulfil the requirements of the code. The new rules are laid out in a 330-word booklet called the Dubai Universal Design Code. This includes all details from the thickness of handrails (30mm) to the minimum distance of accessible toilets in public buildings (150 metres),” said Al Shafel.

Ahmed Al Khatib, vice-president, real estate and delivery at the Expo 2020 Dubai, said: “Easy access is the most important part of the strategy and the planning has been done in accordance.” Ahmed Hassan Mahboub, executive director, customer services department, RTA, said: ” It is not only the movement part we take into account for people with determination but also there are many who cannot see or hear.

Representing Emirates NBD, Muna Al Falahi, senior vice-president, head of business support at the bank, said: “Our bank has introduced a number of policies not only to make it disabled-friendly for customers but also have people of determination in our staff too. Currently we have 17 people of determination as paid employees.”The dialogue focused on sustainable solutions and the required attitude to make Dubai’s infrastructure and tourism sector prepared, ahead of Expo 2020, to welcome everyone who arrives to the city.

Attitude of people emotionally traumatising, says 27-year-old

It is the attitude, looks and behaviour of people that can emotionally traumatise you, said 27-year-old Shobhika, who was diagnosed with a degenerative disorder Friedreich’s ataxia (FA) at the age of 13. Wheelchair-bound Shobhika was present as an inspiring guest at the Emirates NBD flagship advocacy platform #Together Limitless.

“Removing physical barriers will definitely make life much easier and I was happy to hear how our policy makers are now working together and focusing on sustainable solutions to make Dubai inclusive for people of determination ahead of 2020,” she told Khaleej Times.

Shobhika has not let her disability in any way come in the way of becoming what she aspired to be. She not only runs a beauty blog, but is also a psychologist by profession and leads a social initiative called Wings Of Angelz that aims to make the world more wheelchair accessible. Shobhika actively holds campaigns such as “Rampathons” and has managed to convince over 700 places to become wheelchair accessible including key organisations like the RTA, Emirates NBD, Bab Al Shams, Aster pharmacies, Emaar etc.

Yahye Siyad, learning development assistant manager at Emirates NBD, was another inspiring guest at the event who is visually-impaired but did not let that come in the way of his career. He not only takes care of trainings, workshops, from designing to delivery but also looks at the methodology and evaluations of trainings as well.

Yahye said: “A lot of companies feel what is the point in investing on features or facilities for people of determination. This is because they see disability as a permanent feature but they fail to understand that at times disability can strike anyone at any time, even temporarily making them invalid. For example if someone breaks his or her leg, then he will need ramps or elevators to comfortably move from place to place. So making facilities more inclusive can help government serve not only a section of the society but cater to everyone.”

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