Dubai inches closer to becoming world's best city for the disabled
Dubai - The aim is to make Dubai the world's best city for the people of determination when it hosts Expo 2020.
Dubai is moving forward on its course to becoming an inclusive, barrier-free and a disabled-friendly city by 2020.
The city has left no stone unturned in providing People of Determination (PoD) with the services and facilities that empower them with the opportunity to be self-dependent, serve their communities and explore their diverse capacities. The aim is to make Dubai the world's best city for the people of determination when it hosts Expo 2020.
Dubai-based Shobhika Kalra, who runs Wings of Angelz platform, where she along with her team of volunteers, raises awareness about wheelchair accessibility and identifies places that require wheelchair ramps, said she had seen a gradual but steady progress in terms of accessibility for PoD in Dubai.
"I think Dubai is working very hard to make it as disabled-friendly as possible. The wheelchair friendly taxis, the pavements with slopes, the tactile indicators on floor for the visually-impaired at all the metro stations, and most of all, the change in the attitude of the people are extremely encouraging."
Kalra said: "A couple of entities have consulted me to help them make their facilities disabled-friendly, which is commendable. I know that a lot of work is being done into making people with disabilities feel included and I hope more job opportunities are given to the PoD based on their credentials and not just due to their disability."
Gulshan Kavarana, founder of Special Families Support (SFS) whose 22-year-old daughter Zara has a rare form of epilepsy called Dravet Syndrome, said a lot has improved and she feels lucky to be here in the UAE due to the privileges given to the PoD.
"So much has improved here in Dubai. When I travelled with Zara to New York, I had this notion that America is very disabled-friendly but on reaching there, I realised that the US has to learn from Dubai. From free Salik to free and comfortable access to beaches, parks and other entertainment centres, we get a lot of perks here."
Kavarana, who is also an art mentor at the Mawaheb Art Studio for people of determination, said that although there are ramps in the movie halls, the PoD have to sit in the very first row with their families.
She also added that since there were no English subtitiles for movies, the hearing-impaired people miss out on the good films because they are unable to follow.
Another concerned parent, A.D., said that although public parks and entertainment centres have ramps, taking adult PoD to washroom can be an issue as we do not have common washrooms. "My daughter is 22 years old, I cannot lift her from the wheel-chair, which is why I needed my husband's help but he could not come to the ladies washroom. It was a struggle. We hope a common washroom for both male and female PoD can be built with a changing bed for adults," she said.
Also some parents who have severely disabled children said they had no centres to take their children for any recreational activities.
Initiatives to empower people of determination
> Dubai to host first Accessible Tourism International Summit
In the run up to the Expo 2020, Dubai will be hosting its first Accessible Tourism International Summit from November 5 to 6 under the theme of "Making all cities friendly for tourists with disabilities"
Supported by the Dubai Corporation for Tourism and Commerce Marketing, the summit will highlight the challenges faced by about one billion PoD during their travel as visitors or tourists to cities around the world. The summit will also discuss the necessity to strengthen the legislations, infrastructure and services catering to the needs of tourists with disabilities.
> Region's first PoD advisory panel
Recently, Majid Al Futtaim group launched the region's first 'People of Determination Advisory Panel' to ensure its customer offering is inclusive for all members of the UAE community. The panel will advise on practical aspects covering physical accessibility, tailored digital services and staff training needs, as well as how the business can incorporate more People of Determination into its growing workforce. It comprises representatives from the Ministry of Community Development, Dubai Municipality and Sharjah City for Humanitarian Services along with a mix of customers.