It’s easy to talk of inclusive growth which benefits all people, but putting it into practice is easier said than done. The UAE has a track record of making things happen and taking every segment of the population along to meet its development goals. No one will be left behind. The country is evolving into a soft power that influences the world in positive ways. This is a knowledge powerhouse in the making with the right societal grounding. People and ideas are on the move here – it’s progressive and has room for all. Dubai, in fact, wants to become the world’s most dis-abled-friendly city by 2020. No blank talk here. It has put money to back up its words – Dh10 million for a study that began in April this year. The city has come a long way when few facilities existed for people with special needs. Creating awareness has been central to its grand plan as it welcomes people with special needs, and helps them integrate into society. A barrier-free city makes it easier for people with disabilities. The five-year project will ensure that buildings, pavements, roads facilities, buses, trains, marine and air transport are easily accessible to those who have trouble moving around.
His Highness Shaikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE, and Ruler of Dubai, in 2014, passed a decree to make buildings user-friendly for the those with disabilities. According to the directive, it is mandatory to protect the rights of the disabled and support their participation in society. Advocacy groups for people with special needs are taking the message to people; awareness is growing but not at the pace we would like to see it happen. Government departments are also enthusiastic about projects for the disabled. The task is not easy because it requires a change in mindset among residents. How do we treat people with disabilities? They don’t need our sympathy. Just be sensitive to their needs and create sensible facilities for them to move around. They need respect and the means to fully integrate into society. They are not a burden, but can become a source of pride if we tap into their talents.