Dubai: New programme to issue 'autism-friendly' certificates to institutions

It is the first initiative of its kind in the region and aims to encourage community to embrace higher accessibility standards for individuals with autism



by

A Staff Reporter

Published: Sun 18 Sep 2022, 1:46 PM

Last updated: Sun 18 Sep 2022, 10:32 PM

A new programme launched in Dubai on Sunday will encourage more institutions to provide welcoming spaces for individuals with autism. These include public places such as hospitals, shopping centres, parks, and airports.

The Dubai Autism Centre (DAC) announced the launch of its Autism-Friendly Programme (AFP) in its first cycle. It is the first initiative of its kind in the region and aims to encourage community to embrace higher accessibility standards for individuals with autism.

The programme will provide a set of training workshops and advisory services to achieve a safe and friendly environment for people with autism. An Autism-Friendly certificate will have a validity of one year.

Eman Abushabab, community outreach manager at the DAC, said: "The programme's organising committee works on managing various tasks, including training, counselling, and then field audits to check that the expected measures are implemented efficiently to achieve a safe and friendly environment for people with autism.”

She said the process of granting the Autism-Friendly Certificate is based on specific criteria for each area of ​​the programme. The final stage of the evaluation process includes interviews and field visits to the applicants to verify the eligibility of the entity for the classification certificate.

Abushabab explained: "Entities that have Autism-Friendly Certificate are subject to evaluation once a year, in addition to conducting a questionnaire about the level of customer satisfaction and studies based on the mystery shopper approach, usually represented by the families of people with autism.”

Hisham Abdullah Al Qassim, chairman of the DAC, said the initiative will help improve institutional services and facilities to ensure that people with autism have access to the services they seek in various sectors.

Mohammed Al Emadi, director-general of the DAC, said: “People with autism face many challenges when they are in public places … Most of these challenges may be due to their unfamiliarity with the place or procedures, in addition to their inability to anticipate what might happen next.”

The brain functions of people with autism “work differently from our brains”. They have a different way of perceiving things and situations around them, so they need prepared environments to visit all places in the community and “be able to have the same experience as everyone else”.

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a neurological and developmental disorder that begins early in childhood and lasts throughout a person's life. ASD can cause significant social, communication, and behavioural challenges. According to recent studies, one in 44 children is affected by ASD.

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