Dubai: Issues of safety and the rights of people with Down’s syndrome were discussed during a forum held on Tuesday in Dubai in a joint collaboration between the UAE Down Syndrome Association (UAEDSA) and Dubai Police.

The Safety Education Programme highlighted the need to educate families, law enforcement authorities and the community on how to interact with people with Down’s syndrome.

The World Health Organisation estimates the incidence of Down’s syndrome, a chromosomal condition that affects physical and mental development, as between 1 in 1,000 births worldwide.

In the UAE, the UAEDSA believes the incidence is higher. The non-profit organisation reported an increase in members from 77 in 2009 to 156 in 2012. Current membership is at 563.

The UAEDSA’s seventh forum was attended by more than 200 people, comprising representatives from the association, Dubai Police, human rights groups, NGOs (non-government organisations), parents and people with Down’s syndrome.

Speaking to Gulf News, Professor Eman Gaad, head of the educational committee of UAEDSA, said safety was the foremost consideration to help people with Down’s syndrome integrate in society.

“We have collaborated with the Dubai Police to ensure that people with Down’s syndrome are protected and are aware of their rights. Due to intellectual limitation, a person with Down’s syndrome may not be able to enforce his or her rights. Hence the police and members of society need to be educated so a person with Down’s syndrome is safe at home, at the workplace and in public places,” she said.

In the UAE, the Federal Law No 14/2009 amended by Law No 29/2006 ratifies the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, and protects the rights of people with special needs, giving them equal opportunities and the right to a decent life and comprehensive care in education, training, health and rehabilitation.

“Our effort is to increase the effectiveness of the laws,” said Professor Gaad.

Colonel Dr Ebrahim Al Dabal from Dubai Police told Gulf News: “Through this forum we hope to educate the community on the legal rights of people with Down’s syndrome and the responsibility of each member of society. The programme also extends to deal with safety from abuse, accidents or any other form.”

Parent Mohammad Al Dabal, whose son Saif, 26, has Down’s syndrome, told Gulf News: “Everyone needs to be educated on how to deal with a person with special needs because they are equally part of our society.”

The forum also held a graduating ceremony for 24 Emirati women under the Teacher Assistant Project in collaboration with the British University in Dubai (BUID) and the Ministry of Education.