Cabs for special needs people showcased in Abu Dhabi

Cabs for special needs people showcased in Abu Dhabi

A small fleet of modified Mercedes Vito is now available in Abu Dhabi to serve as taxis for people on wheelchairs.


Silvia Radan

Published: Wed 26 Mar 2014, 12:23 AM

Last updated: Tue 7 Apr 2015, 8:42 PM

The new service for people with special needs is offered by the Centre for Regulation of Transport by Hire Cars, which is part of Abu Dhabi’s Department of Transport.

Delegates at the ABILITIESme conference in Abu Dhabi on Monday.- KT photos by Nezar Balout

“We have six such cars, two at the airport and four for the city. The charge is normal taxi fare and disabled customers may also use their discount card provided by the Ministry of Social Affaires,” said Mohammed Al Qumzi, general manager of the centre.

Made in Spain, the special needs taxis are the size of a small van, stripped bare in the back. A hydraulic platform lifts the wheelchair at the push of a button into the vehicle, which can then be then secured with a strap. A special seat belt is also available for the disabled passenger. There are also four ordinary passenger seats available.

“We’ve chosen these disabled taxis after we’ve done a lot of studies for what is best for people with special needs here,” Al Qumzi told Khaleej Times.

“We introduced the service six months ago, but people are still not aware of it. We have about 400 trips per month,” he added.

Awareness is one reason the centre decided to showcase the disable-friendly taxi at ABILITIESme, the first exhibition and conference in the UAE dedicated to people with special needs.

The two-day event that kicked off in Abu Dhabi on Monday, focuses on economic, social, education and professional empowerment of people with disabilities.

“There are 700 million persons with special needs, representing 10 per cent of the world’s population. We can be in the lead to provide care to help them participate actively in all that they desire,” said Shaikh Nahyan bin Mubarak Al Nahyan, Minister of Culture, Youth and Community Development, who inaugurated the conference.

Maha Barakat, Director-General of Health Authority Abu Dhabi, said people with special needs can be as successful professionally as anyone else, if given the opportunities.

“Look at the 2011 special needs Olympics! We were astounded at UAE’s success - 23 gold medals, 24 silver medals and 18 bronze medals! This is proof that these individuals can produce something special, and it is our duty, as part of Abu Dhabi government, to help them realise their potential,” she said.

Mariam Al Qubaisi, head of special needs department at Zayed Higher Organisation for Humanitarian Care and Special Needs, Abu Dhabi, pointed out that it takes more than fixing a wheelchair ramp to truly help a disabled person.

“When we go to the cafe now for lunch, will there be low tables for people in wheelchairs or meals that the blind can eat? Just providing a wheelchair and a ramp is not enough. We need to think of all details,” she stressed.

The Zayed Higher Organisation is now working to help put together a federal law that would empower special needs people, and improve the current situation.

According to Al Qubaisi, accessibility for disabled people in Abu Dhabi only reaches 31 per cent, health services 63 per cent, only 25 percent of disabled individuals lead an independent life, 53 per cent benefit from the education system and a worrying 11 per cent get a job.—

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