Dubai: The Dubai Disability Strategy 2020, which aims to provide equal rights and services to people with disabilities in Dubai by the year 2020 been revealed by Shaikh Mansour Bin Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Chairman of the Higher Committee for the Protection of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
In an exclusive interview with Gulf News, Shaikh Mansour said the strategy will cover five main pillars: education, health care, employment, social protection and universal accessibility.
“Many persons with disabilities have managed to overcome the various environmental, social, and system barriers to seize opportunities and achieve their aspirations. However, many barriers remain, which prevent them from participating fully in society,” he said.
The strategy aims to enhance Dubai’s global status by securing full and equal rights of persons with disabilities to ensure that persons with disabilities obtain their full rights in a fair manner and are able to thrive in an inclusive environment with suitable, accessible and quality services.
It also aims to raise the community’s general awareness on the importance of including persons with disabilities in all aspects of community life.
“Our collective role is one that aims to reach international standards, applied in inclusive international organisations and communities, as well as local governments and institutions, which ensure the full inclusion of persons with disabilities; they are an inherent part of our social fabric with equal rights, opportunities and duties,” said Shaikh Mansour.
Dubai Disability Strategy 2020
Shaikh Mansour said the strategy has a clear plan that details all involved parties’ roles for the upcoming years, with the objective of providing fair and equal rights to all persons with disabilities, adding that the strategy seeks to allow persons with disabilities to enjoy their basic rights and services, which ensures social justice, equity, and protection.
“We are committed to using all available means to create a friendly and inclusive environment that empowers persons with disabilities and provides them with services that meet their needs and their families’ needs in regards to accommodation, education, health care, entertainment and sports, as well as their access to public facilities,” he said.
Shaikh Mansour said relevant governmental entities have been assigned to lead each of the five strategic pillars and form teams with the concerned parties, to efficiently execute the plans within the set timelines.
“With regards to education, we seek to achieve inclusion across all educational levels — from early years to universities, vocational education, and lifelong learning. Additionally, it is vital to have the resources for early screening, proper psycho-educational assessment, and support in creating the least restrictive learning environments,” said Shaikh Mansour.
“With regards to health care, we are in the process of planning and executing a policy that outlines plans for a comprehensive early detection through comprehensive newborn and developmental screening, assessment and early intervention programmes. Also, health care providers need to offer health care services that cover basic and specialised health needs of persons with disabilities, from identification and diagnosis to treatment and rehabilitation,” he said.
“On the level of employment, we are working on developing community-based centres for those above 18 to have access to proper advocacy and capacity-building platforms that facilitate skill development and enhance networking, thereby promoting community engagement, gainful employment and entrepreneurship.”
“As for social protection, we will be extending social services to persons with disabilities and their families to guarantee they attain all that is necessary to protect their rights and dignities.”
Shaikh Mansour said these objectives cannot be achieved unless an accessible environment is created, one that follows globally approved standards, in our infrastructure, information technology and transportation systems, to transform Dubai into a disability-friendly city by 2020.
Dubai’s Protection of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities law
In line with Dubai’s commitment to promoting inclusion, His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoom, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, issued the Local Law No. 2 in 2014 for the Protection of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in the Emirate of Dubai.
The law ensures that persons with disabilities are entitled to all the rights prescribed to them, that they are respected and treated with dignity, and that their potential as empowered and productive members of society is recognised, said Shaikh Mansour.
“The law calls on all concerned parties in Dubai to provide essential and basic services to persons with disabilities, such as affordable health care and rehabilitation services; education at all stages; public services, which include the use of roads and public transportation; facilitated access to public amenities; and ensuring that their surrounding environment is easily accessible,” he said.
‘My Community ... A City for Everyone’ initiative
In order to promote the initiative and set the Emirate of Dubai as a leading example, Shaikh Hamdan Bin Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai launched the “My Community ... A City for Everyone” initiative in November 2013, which aims at transforming Dubai into a disability-friendly city by 2020.
Shaikh Mansour said Dubai intends to do so through several projects and activities designed to maximise the participation and inclusion of persons with disabilities, and eliminate the various barriers, which currently prevent them from achieving their full potential as participating and contributing members of society.
Shaikh Mansour said the leadership is aware that turning Dubai into a disability-friendly city can only be achieved by combining the collective efforts of the whole society, which includes both private and public sectors, as well as all members of the community.
According to the new law and towards the My Community initiative, Shaikh Hamdan, issued the Executive Council’s decision No. 3 of 2014. “The decision stipulates the establishment of the Higher Committee for the Protection of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities under my supervision,” Shaikh Mansour said. The aim of this committee is to implement the articles of the local law and supervise the implementation of the initiative and the work plan aimed at protecting the rights of persons with disabilities.
“It is our role and responsibility to work on eliminating any differences, even if it requires amendments to our laws and significant changes in our attitudes, daily practices, and behaviour; this is to ensure that persons with disabilities in particular do not feel any different,” he said.
Outcomes of “My Community ... A City for Everyone” initiative so far:
Shaikh Mansour said when My Community initiative was first launched, two paths were adopted.
The first path entailed developing the strategic plan and drawing a road map for the coming years; and the second one revolved around following up on the implementation of quick and vital initiatives, which have been identified based on the information gathered from previously adopted policies.
“Some of these initiatives include preparations to launch a social awareness campaign to change the prevailing perception towards persons with disabilities; as well as establishing a communication system that provides information on disabilities and the services offered which also includes a dedicated call centre for the hearing-impaired,” he said.
Shaikh Mansour said employees of emergency centres, police officers, and other relevant stakeholders have received sensitisation training on the types of disabilities and effective ways to offer persons with disabilities quality services on an equal basis with others.
Furthermore, governmental entities were instructed to modify their websites and render them accessible for persons with disabilities. Finally, we have instructed all governmental entities not to segregate or discriminate based on a person’s disability in regards to education and employment opportunities,” he said.
Additionally, Shaikh Mansour said there is currently a government — wide task force working on devising work-plans to assess the level of accessibility of the already existing infrastructure, transportation and communications systems, to ensure full access to persons with disabilities.
Private sector role
Achieving our aims cannot be possible without the wide participation of the private sector, which we consider a strategic partner in this initiative.
Shaikh Mansour called on the private sector to play an effective role in enhancing this initiative to include persons with disabilities and make sure that on-site accessibility measures and services are properly implemented.
“We also call on them to work on devising proper plans to offer rehabilitation and employment opportunities for persons with disabilities. We expect them to introduce initiatives and follow the policies and rules that help us achieve our goal of transforming Dubai into a disability-friendly city by 2020. The cooperation and support of the private sector and the participation of all levels of society will expedite the fulfilment of our shared aims,” he added.
Shaikh Mansour’s message to persons with disabilities
Shaikh Mansour also called on the families of persons with disabilities to encourage their sons and daughters to know their rights and duties, and to urge them to have faith and believe that they are an essential part of society and are capable of creating and innovating.
“To persons with disabilities, I say you must not give up, and you must seek opportunities that enable you to grow, develop, and interact with society, in order to be creative and productive.
I, like the rest of Dubai’s sons and daughters, look forward to seeing you invest your efforts in elevating this city up to the highest standards. I look forward to seeing you work and enhance your capabilities for the sake of our city’s progress and development. I believe that we all have what it takes,” he said.