The UAE is one of the best countries in the world for people with disabilities, where they receive the respect and attention they need and deserve. I was in the UAE last week and while I was at the bus station, I was amazed to find a clean and well appointed waiting area for disabled people.
It’s also well known in the UAE that police never go easy on careless drivers who think it’s okay to occupy disabled parking spots, and the fine is huge. So people hesitate to commit such mistakes. Good for them!
If I were a disabled person, I would not choose to work or live in Kuwait. There are many reasons for this, and it’s mostly related to the culture and public behavior, which doesn’t seem to respect those who suffer from disabilities. Its normal to see fully abled people park in spots reserved for the disabled. There are also limited facilities to accommodate disabled adults or children, few sidewalks or wheelchair ramps at restaurants, hotels, shopping malls, etc.
Public services are also not disabled-friendly. For example, bus stations are not equipped for disabled. Why? Because no one bothers to assume that a handicapped person may need to wait for a bus, aside from riding it. Bus stations in Kuwait are not even properly equipped for healthy people, so surely they are not fit for disabled people.
We also lack a culture of driving. You see people driving fancy cars or government cars and they think they own the road and can park anywhere and do whatever they want. This is not right. How would you feel if a police car blocked a disabled parking space? You and I have to feel upset and angry. We have to say a big ‘No’.
An increasing number of public areas and hotels now have access and facilities with specially adapted rooms and facilities for people with disabilities in the UAE. Not only have they issued laws, but they made sure to activate and follow them up in order to provide high-quality medical care and social services, boost public awareness, contribute to integrating people with disabilities into the society and reaffirm their participation in social development.
In 2006, the UAE federal government passed the UAE Disability Act (federal law no. 29/2006) to protect the rights of people with disabilities. This law stipulates that UAE nationals with disabilities have the same rights to work and occupy public positions. The UAE ratified the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities on March 19, 2010. In March 2014, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE, in his capacity as the Ruler of Dubai, issued law no. 2 of 2014 “to protect the rights of people with disabilities in the emirate of Dubai”. This law confirms the attention given to people with disabilities and their leading role in the process of human development.
It’s sad that many other Arab countries don’t recognize disabled people. This is also related to ignorance and a lack of education at home. The fact is that respect is given according to people’s wealth, power and influence, and not according to their human rights. Laws regarding the disabled exist in many countries, but it’s only ink on paper because there is no one to follow up or punish violators.
We need to raise awareness among children, teenagers and the police to convey a message that it is time to reconsider disabled people’s needs and rights.
By Muna Al-Fuzai