Dubai set to be friendliest place for ‘people of determination’
A series of initiatives help develop and empower those with special needs
Vehicle testing and registration centre Tasjeel offer a wheelchair and VIP services for handicapped customers.
Dubai: Dubai is set to become the world’s friendliest place for people of determination with the Government of Dubai issuing many legislations to protect their rights and provide them with internationally benchmarked support.
Following the introduction of the National Strategy for Empowering People with Disabilities, His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, directed the appointment of a dedicated person in every service-related organisation, to be in-charge of facilitating services for ‘people of determination’. The government has also launched several campaigns and initiatives to increase awareness about their rights and make life easier for them. A look at some initiatives:
Dubai’s global leadership in raising the quality of life of ‘people of determination’ is exemplified by its keenness to create platforms for sharing expertise in this domain. The emirate has just announced that it will be hosting the world’s first Accessible Tourism International Summit on November 5 and 6 this year. To be held under the patronage of Shaikh Ahmad Bin Saeed Al Maktoum, President of Dubai Civil Aviation, Chairman of Dubai Airports and Chairman and Chief Executive of Emirates Airline and Group, the summit will be held under the theme of “making all cities friendly for tourists with disabilities”.
The event aims to highlight the challenges faced by about one billion ‘people of determination’ during their travel as visitors or tourists to cities around the world. The summit will also discuss the necessity to strengthen the legislations, laws, infrastructure and services catering to the needs of tourists with disabilities and their aspirations to explore the world with ease.
One of the pivotal initiatives in Dubai’s comprehensive plan for enhancing the lives of ‘people of determination is ‘My Community … A City for Everyone’, a programme launched by the Crown Prince of Dubai Shaikh Hamdan Bin Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum. The initiative includes projects promoting the participation and inclusion of ‘people of determination’ in the community.
The objectives are fourfold: promoting equal opportunities; maintaining social cohesion; building social capital; and minimising and eventually eliminating social exclusion. Under this initiative, comprehensive empowerment policies were adopted to integrate ‘people of determination’ in all aspects of life in Dubai. Since its establishment, the initiative has supported ‘people of determination’ through quality health and rehabilitation services and access to inclusive education with specialised support services in mainstream schools, among many others.
Dubai Municipality is a key player in the drive to improve the quality of life of ‘people of determination’. It offers guides in Braille language in all public parks and customer service centres. They are exempted from entry fees in public parks and have specialised physical fitness equipment, in addition to free wheelchairs. Children of determination are offered specialised games in public parks.
The Municipality has also dedicated specially-designed counters for ‘people of determination’ in its service centres and specialised pathways on beaches. Trained staff have been stationed in parks and service centres to communicate using sign language, if required. Dedicated car parking and complimentary wheelchairs are also available in Dubai Municipality facilities.
Inclusive service training
Dubai has also introduced new training programmes focused on ensuring the city is universally welcoming across all touch points. The Dubai College of Tourism (DCT) established by the Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing (Dubai Tourism), recently launched an inclusive service-training programme designed to help tourist-facing employees provide ‘people of determination’ with superior customer service. The programme, developed as the second phase of the ‘Dubai Way’ initiative launched in 2017, highlights the role of empathy and the importance of providing the highest standards of hospitality to all visitors, reflecting a truly inclusive society.
Aimed at fostering awareness of different disabilities, the initiative also educates students on common misconceptions and oversights, helping to serve guests with disabilities in the most sensitive manner. The new programme utilises an array of assets, including videos, real-life stories, activities and assessments to equip learners with the skills needed to handle challenging service scenarios.
Dubai Health Authority (DHA) has achieved notable progress in providing ‘people of determination’ with quality health care that matches services offered in leading countries like the US, UK, Canada, Japan and Australia. Services include early detection for autism and developmental delays; early intervention, including physiotherapy, speech therapy and motor skill therapy; a variety of physiotherapy and rehabilitation services; and many specialised intervention programmes.
Roads and transportation
Manar Al Hamadi is one of the volunteers helping to improve conditions on the Metro for people with special needs.
Dubai’s Roads and Transport Authority (RTA) offers tactile floor paths to guide visually-impaired people at metro stations. All ticket-selling booths are designed to be accessible to wheelchair users and special spaces are offered on all metro facilities for wheelchair users. Audio-visual cautionary signs are flashed upon opening and closing of platform screen doors. Also available are escalators fitted with side-hand rests stretching along the rail, non-slippery sliding paths from the car park to the station entrance, public phones at a much lower level to enable ‘people of determination’ to use them and spacious doors to ease wheelchair accessibility.RTA has also designed pavements whose height is lowered in the proximity of junctions or cross points to help ‘people of determination’ cross roads. It has also constructed pedestrian crossings between two ends of the road such that there is no height difference, apart from providing lifts to footbridges. RTA has also designed additional parking lots for ‘people of determination’ and installed signs to assist them.
The Sanad card
In line with the ‘My Community’ initiative, the Community Development Authority (CDA) in Dubai has introduced the Sanad Card, available free of charge to both Emiratis and expatriates. The card offers exclusive privileges and services with up to 50 per cent discount on select services and products ‘people of determination’ need. These services include exemption from public transportation fees, vehicle registration and Salik fees, 50 per cent discount for registration fees on new utility applications, wheelchair and Marhaba service, and discounts on medical, dental and legal services, among others. The Sanad Card is also the main tool to build a database for ‘people of determination’ in Dubai.