Abdullah Al Shaibani Image Credit: Courtesy: Organisers

Dubai: Dubai is studying measures to transform the emirate into a disability-friendly city by 2020, the secretary-general of Dubai Executive Council said on Monday.

Establishing the city as a fully inclusive, disability-friendly city by 2020, is the objective of the ‘My Community’ initiative launched by Shaikh Hamdan Bin Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai and Chairman of Dubai Executive Council, in 2013.

“We are currently in the evaluation stage; we have hired a consultant to see what needs to be done to transform the city into a disability-friendly one. If a person with a disability has to go to the bakery and then the bank, for example, can he do so at ease? Are the buildings equipped?” said Abdullah Al Shaibani, secretary-general of Dubai Executive Council and vice-chairman of the Higher Committee for the Protection of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

By establishing a fully inclusive disability-friendly city, Al Shaibani said all aspects of life, education, work, transport, etc, should be accessed and performed at ease by people with disabilities. For this reason, joint efforts by all the authorities concerned in Dubai is central in providing important and essential services for those with disabilities.

Al Shaibani said the Executive Council is also looking to learn from other countries’ expertise, which is why it is launching the ‘Dubai Inclusive Development forum’, which will take place at Madinat Jumeirah in Dubai on October 11-12.

The forum will bring together international and local expertise to share experiences and discuss integrating people with disabilities, in addition to translating the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disability (UNCRPD) into local laws and policies.

Majid Al Osaimi, vice-president of the UAE Disabled Sports Federation and Member of the Higher Committee for the Protection of the Rights of Persons of Disability, said as a person with a disability himself, he believes awareness is the biggest challenge.

“If you ask me if a building’s stairs is the biggest challenge I will tell you no. As a person in a wheelchair, I don’t care about the stairs, it is not a problem, the owner of the building is. If his mentality changes and he becomes aware about the needs of people with disabilities, then we will have ramps in addition to stairs, the toilets will be equipped and, in fact, everything about the building will be equipped. Awareness is the biggest challenge,” said Al Osaimi. The second challenge that needs to be tackled, he said, is creating and implementing legislation that protects the rights of those who are disabled.

“Involving people with disabilities and their families in policymaking is vital for the success and effectiveness of the policies,” said Al Osaimi.

The My Community initiative will only be implemented in Dubai, in line with Law No (2) of 2014 on the Protection of the Rights of those with Disabilities in the emirate of Dubai issued by His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, in 2014.

The law aims to ensure that persons with disabilities enjoy all their rights and are protected from all forms of discrimination and abuse in all aspects of life.