Dubai aims to be the most disabled-friendly city

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Dubai aims to be the most disabled-friendly city
Zainab Al Eqabi is happy that Dubai will soon be a 'barrier free city.'

Dubai - By the end of 2016, Dubai will launch four pilot projects that will help the emirate achieve its goals of being the most disability-friendly destination by 2020.


Kelly Clarke

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Published: Thu 14 Apr 2016, 12:00 AM

Last updated: Fri 15 Apr 2016, 9:21 AM

For Iraqi Dubai resident Zainab Al Eqabi - who lost her left leg in a bomb explosion in her native Baghdad - Dubai can often be a difficult place to manoeuvre around.

"In buildings especially, it's hard to climb the stairs, and also on roads, high curbs can become an issue," she said.

But, by the end of 2016, Dubai will launch four pilot projects that will help the emirate achieve its goals of being the most disability-friendly destination by 2020.

The pilot projects - which are part of the 'My Community... A City for Everyone' initiative launched by Shaikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Price of Dubai and Chairman of Dubai Executive Council in 2013 - will span three major sectors in Dubai: transport, buildings and communications.

Dh10 million has been set aside for the design of the pilot projects, with the aim of establishing a 'Dubai standard for universal design'.

Once the standard is established by the end of 2016, work will begin on retrofitting the city, according to Dr Salem Ali Alshafei, Director of Polices and Programmes (Rights of People with Disabilities Strategy Management and Governance Sector) of The Executive Council (TEC).

"This new initiative is great news as it makes me feel optimistic because the new standards will allow me to go anywhere and everywhere, without worrying," Al Eqabi said of the plans.

Dr Alshafei said they are currently in the process of "identifying the pilot sites", but revealed two sites will be piloted from the transport sector; one or two sites from the buildings sector; and one site from the communication sector.

Towards becoming most disabled friendly destination

The 'Accessible Environments For People With Disability based on Universal Design' initiative has been launched by TEC Dubai, in collaboration with the Community Development Authority (CDA), Roads and Transport Authority (RTA) and Dubai Municipality (DM).

In all it will cover six phases, with work already underway for Phase 1 of the project.

To establish a "Dubai standard for universal design", a committee from the TEC will look to emulate best practices from around the world.

Phase 1 will see TEC committee heads evaluate the current standards in Dubai looking at issues of legality, permits, and technical capabilities.

Phase 2 will look at best international standards from around the world.

Phase 3 will see the coming together of universal best standards for Dubai - filling in any gaps identified in Phase 1.

Phase 4 will see the committee heads, along with external consultants in best practice in universal design, develop a strategy for transformation.

Phase 5 will see commencement of full module training for knowledge and skills transfers for those working on the pilot projects.

And Phase 6 will see the launch of the pilot projects where the standards set in Phases 1-5 will be adopted and transferred into a universal design.

With Dh10 million set aside for the "design" of the pilot projects, the goal is to have all sites retrofitted to the meet the new standards by end of Q1 in 2017.

However, construction of the retrofit will not be covered by this Dh10 million budget.  

Speaking following the announcement, Director-General of CDA, Khalid Al Kamda, said with accessibility noted as the "biggest issue here", the aim of the project is to make Dubai a "barrier-free city".

Now fitted with a prosthetic limb, Eqabi's said the news is music to her ears. .

"This is yet another step from Dubai to make the entire disabled community feel included."

-Dh 10 million set aside for design of the pilot projects-The projects will be rolled out in six phases
-Two sites piloted from transportation sector, such as the metro
-One or two sites from buildings sector, such as a mall
-One site from communications sector, such as a specialized building
Dubai to be most disabled-friendly city in the world by 2020

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