Dubai Hessa Buhumaid, Cabinet Member and Minister of Community Development, described Dubai’s hosting of the first Accessible Tourism Summit, as a ‘golden chance’ to improve the lives of People of Determination, when she opened the two-day event at Dubai World Trade Centre on Tuesday.

The summit brings together leading figures in the industry of accessible tourism, ahead of Dubai’s vision to become one of the world’s most disabled friendly cities by 2020.

Golden chance

“We are very happy to have this golden chance to know about all the up to date technology that will make the lives of People of Determination better in the future,” said Buhumaid, following her tour of exhibition stands, profiling all the latest trends in accessible tourism.

“Technology and development will help us make facilities and services more competitive and society more understanding.

“We have great examples here today from public and private sectors that will be the benchmark, they will provide all the facilities to support the ambition of our leaders to make Dubai and the UAE a friend of People of Determination.

“Policies and legislation also make up a comprehensive package to support People of Determination in our society and support their rights in this country,” the minister added.

Dubai a role model

Abdullah Mohammad Al Basti, secretary general of the Executive Council of Dubai and vice chairman of the Higher Committee for Protection of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, said, “People of Determination have completely erased the word impossible through their persistence and perseverance.

“We have excellent stories of success here today that embody how People of Determination can achieve their goals, regardless of low possibilities or insufficient services provided to them.

“They have all the rights, knowledge, education and will for success, and through collaboration of different parties in the private and public sector we can make Dubai and the UAE a role model to be followed, and transfer this city to becoming a friend of People of Determination by 2020. It will be hard work but we must provide them with their rights.”

Jamal Al Hai, Chairman of the Dubai Accessible Tourism International Summit (DATIS), said there are around 1.2 billion travelers globally and an estimated 10 per cent of them are People of Determination.

Dubai is now competing to attract these 120 million travelers by properly catering to their needs, added Al Hai. Statistics show that 54 per cent of people with special access requirements avoid going to new places if they find it inaccessible, but 50 million people with special needs are looking forward to visiting new places if their needs are catered for, making it a huge market for the UAE’s tourism industry to pursue.

Paralympian talks of role of sport

The UAE’s most decorated Paralympian of all-time Mohammad Khamis Khallaf believes that sport has helped drive the country towards greater accessibility.

The Special Olympics World Games was hosted in Abu Dhabi in March and as a legacy to that event, there has been several fast-tracked policies, including 60 per cent of Dubai’s public buildings becoming accessible to People of Determination.

“You could not have dreamed of this when I was younger, when I couldn’t even think of having school lessons on the second floor,” said the winner of two gold and one silver medal at the past three successive Paralympics for weightlifting in 82-88-kg categories.

Leg paralysis caused by childhood polio means Khallaf is in a wheelchair and has to lift weights on his back while laying on a bench.

“Accessibility was a very big issue for me growing up, but now most places are accessible,” he said speaking to Gulf News on the sidelines of the inaugural Dubai Accessible Tourism Summit.

“This first summit is great. Many participators are presenting projects from education to transportation. Dubai is really targeting accessibility and in the future it will be much better.

“Sport, I believe, has helped guide the city to look for the needs of accessibility, integration and inclusion,” he added.