DUBAI: A lot more needs to be done before people of determination feel ‘included’, said Fatima Al Jasem, member of the advisory board for people of determination in UAE.
Speaking to Gulf News at the Special Olympics World Games Workshop held in Dubai last week Fatima said, “The UAE has been very progressive, supportive and innovative when it comes to creating opportunities for people like us, but a lot more has to be done in other areas, especially public transport facilities and imbibing a rock-solid social security sense around us.”
Fatima, who is currently pursuing her Masters in Strategic Communication at the Zayed University suffers from cerebral palsy. “I was diagnosed with the problem at birth, but it hasn’t stopped me from achieving my goals,” said the 22-year-old, who is also the first Emirati woman in a wheelchair to skydive.
Fatima has been on the advisory board since its inception in April 2017 and says many new laws and reforms that will be announced in the coming year are aimed at benefiting people of determination in the UAE. “It is often noticed that only Emirati get jobs or opportunities, but next year there will be a lot of prospects for expats as well. Vox Cinema is already on board, they have hired people with autism, downs syndrome for a various job roles. We are working on making health insurance and other medical benefits available to our expats who are physically or mentally challenged,” she added.
In terms of what has been recommended to the government, Fatima said, “We are looking for better public transport accessibility, more paved pavements within our neighbourhoods as well as a programme for safety personnel to deal with people of determination. We don’t want to feel unsafe if the fire alarm sets off in a building — it would be nice if at least some people around us know what to do and help us if need be. Dubai Police now have a special training for this and soon other departments will have the same. What we really look forward to is having an open mindedness for us, whether it is at workplace, in a supermarket or just on the roads,” she said.
According to Mouza Al Hamed, the Abu Dhabi- based Emirati athlete who represented UAE at the Olympic Games last season, opportunities in sports and athletics are plenty. “There is so much for us to do and we feel very privileged. There are lots of training centres and new things to learn but we only wish there were more competitions for us to be able to participate in,” said the 24-year-old who suffers from Down syndrome.