SHARJAH // Architects, engineers and advocates for the disabled yesterday welcomed new plans to make every building in the emirate accessible to people with special needs.
"Our technology and designs have not done enough to help our fellow human beings who need just a touch more comfortable access to everything than us," said Salah al Obaid of Al Wahda Engineering Contractors.
"There are no buildings and places designed with the intention that disabled people should not enter them, but there are places where it is hard for them to go.
"This to me implies that it is not the people who are disabled, but our technology and designs that are disabled."
Gulshan Kavarana, the founder of Special Families Support, a group that helps families with children who have special needs, said: "There are people with disabilities everywhere in the world. It should be mandatory for all buildings to have these disabled access ramps."
It was important that the ramps were set at an appropriate angle, she said. "The slope for a trolley ramp is high and very sharp - that's not good to be used by someone in a wheelchair."
Architects said there should be some universal designs in buildings and homes that made life easier for people with all types of disabilities. "If you buy or rent a house with a very small door and your son sits in a wheelchair, what can you do?" said Ahmed Haytham, an architect with al Baraka Construction Contractors.
“Authorities have to sponsor some research on a universal design that should be adopted by all architects in the country.”
Mohammed Ahmed, an engineer with Al Khaleej Contractors, said: “There is some need to have changes in buildings’ architecture, not just to allow disabled people easy mobility, but also to let them feel comfortable and not harm them.
“This is not just for buildings but also small shops. Some have glassed doors that need to be pushed too hard to open, and others have automatic doors that suddenly close.”
He said he had seen an automatic door almost injure a disabled person when it closed before he could get through.
The new rules on disabled access, announced at a government meeting this week, apply to private and government buildings, houses and offices.
All new designs must meet the guildines to be approved, said Eng Khalifa Misbah al Tunaiji, chairman of the Sharjah Department of Housing.
The examination of the housing needs of disabled members of the community was carried out on the orders of Sheikh Dr Sultan bin Mohammed Al Qasimi, member of the Supreme Council and Ruler of Sharjah, Mr al Tunaiji said.
“The Ruler’s main objective is to ensure a decent life for all people with special needs,” he said.
He said the Department of Housing was meeting all concerned departments to have the requirements implemented in every government building.
“All future beneficiaries of public housing will also have these provisions in their homes to allow them live comfortably,” he said.