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Disability is not a disease

Winners of the Community Report competition for June

Gulf News

Dubai

Whether we like it or not, more often than not, children and people with special needs are looked upon as not truly being part of society. It most probably isn’t intentional but is a kind of underlying prejudice that colours our actions.

We all love our independence, but as Sandy Hamm wrote for the American Society and Children with Disabilities: “...has anyone ever thought about what kind of freedom we offer those with disabilities?”

Most of the times people and children with special needs have to seek help, they know and accept this. But, it is our responsibility to help them move away from that as much as possible, to reach goals, be dreamers and find opportunities.

Readers Desk did a detailed report on the blind community in the UAE and the prejudices they face. People fail to understand that they are able and equipped to deal with the challenges life throws at them.

We form an opinion of people with special needs before we even get to know them - we assume they cannot be.

Every man, woman and child has that right to a chance at life, which we tend to take for granted. And fundamental to that is decent infrastructure to get around, be a part of the community.

And this is precisely what Gulf News community reporter Nazim Motiwala raised in his article published on June 3, “No parking spaces for the disabled in this crowded residential area”. A resident of the Al Guwair area in Sharjah for 14 years, the father of a child with special needs, he went around the neighbourhood counting the parking spaces available. There are about 800 of them and many are missing any dedicated special needs’ parking spots or wheelchair access ramps. The matter was raised with Sharjah Municipality but there was no response, but we hope that they will address it at the earliest. The report has won first place for its detailed, personalised coverage that brought in other parents facing the same issue on a daily basis.

Second place goes to the report, “Cyclists need to be a lot more careful on the roads”, by Nithin Kumar, published on June 1. It focuses on people who use cycles to get around, such as delivery workers, handymen and gardeners. There is a UAE Federal Law in place that says cyclists are not allowed on main roads and places where it isn’t clearly marked for usage by them. Despite that, people disregard the law, endangering themselves and others in the bargain. Added to this, many are without the necessary safety vest or helmet. Laws are made to protect people. Is it ignorance? What do you think can be done for better compliance of rules by cyclists?

Third place winner is Kavitha Satheesh for her report, “Reading club a big encouragement for children to pick up books”, published on June 29. It focused on a children’s reading group set up by one of the member’s mothers - Roosh Mehar. She told Gulf News: “The idea … came to my mind with the declaration of the UAE’s Year of Reading.” An excellent initiative that has picked up rapid momentum. We look forward to many more such efforts.

PROFILES:

First: Nazim Motiwala

Published on June 3, 2017

Nazim Motiwala, a key account manager based in Sharjah, raised the issue of a lack of parking spaces for the disabled in one of Sharjah’s residential areas. As the father of a son with special needs, he finds it difficult to park his vehicle and offload his son’s wheelchair due to no proper parking spaces allocated to their needs.

He said: “Community reports highlight the many issues faced by the community. I had written earlier as well regarding the parking disability card, which was an issue for many families at the time. At that point, the Roads and Transport Authority (RTA) were prompt in their response and many families of differently-abled children within my support group have now access to this card, which has made lives easy.”

After his current report was published, a lot of families commended him for his constant efforts to raise awareness on such issues.

Motiwala said: “Unfortunately, a few days ago, I saw a family stuck between two cars and were thus unable to bring their child out, as he or she was in a wheelchair. Many motorists in the parking just kept honking as this was creating a traffic block. All it requires is to have some dedicated parking spaces for people with special needs.”

Second: Nitin Kumar

Published on June 1, 2017

Nitin Kumar, a sales coordinator based in Dubai, reported on people riding their bicycles on main roads. He was concerned that this was a hazard, especially because the cyclists were riding against the flow of traffic in busy areas like Deira, Dubai.

He said: “I believe that community reports are a great platform to raise social awareness regarding such issues as Gulf News is read by a large number of people.”

In his report, he mentions how the cyclists need to be more careful and wear safety gear, such as helmets and reflective vests, and refrain from weaving through traffic on busy roads.

He hopes to continue highlighting issues within the community through this platform. “People reading my reports are supportive and they encourage me to write more.”

Third: Kavitha Satheesh

Published on June 29, 2017

Kavitha Satheesh, a nurse based in Abu Dhabi, wrote about a reading club in the capital initiated by a group of mothers to encourage their children to pick up more books.

She said: “We started the club to create more awareness about reading in general and to enhance the reading culture among our children. I wrote the report so that more people would come to know of our initiative and also to encourage the members of the club. Gulf News offered us a great platform, because it is only through them that such programmes are getting attention.”

After the report was published, her friends got in touch with her to express interest to sign up their children. They passed on the details to people they knew, too.

— Profiles compiled by Rabab Khan/Community Interactivity Editor

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