Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 22 September 2020

Matching disabled-friendly aspirations takes time

More effort is required to swiftly implement accessibility plans, but change does not happen overnight

A park on Abu Dhabi's Corniche without wheelchair access. July 22, 2016. Ravindranath K / The National
A park on Abu Dhabi's Corniche without wheelchair access. July 22, 2016. Ravindranath K / The National

The return of mild temperatures and clement weather marks the slow awakening of the city after the slumber of a scorching summer, as the young and the old rush outdoors, craving a non-climate controlled landscape and to spend some time under the sun.

Wheelchair users, mothers with prams and cyclists, among many others, highlight the continuous struggle to navigate the pavements and roadways of our buzzing cities.

The considerable development our nation has achieved in so little time has more than often drawn the admiration of the world, but one should always keep in mind that developing facilities to match aspirations takes time.

In a place where people spend five months of the year mostly indoors, due to the torrid heat, our cities are paving the way, in the region at least, when it comes to accessibility. Office buildings, residential buildings and malls around the country feature accessibility ramps and restrooms for the disabled. As for the outdoors, wheelchair-friendly paths and pedestrian bridges fitted with elevators in vital areas, recreational areas and streets are but a few examples of existing achievements.

In a move to retrofit thousands of buildings to improve disabled access, the General Secretariat of the Executive Council in Dubai recently announced that more than 1,000 existing buildings will be modified to cater to the disabled. These will include schools, healthcare facilities, mosques and recreational areas.

Design codes in Dubai and Abu Dhabi define standards to ensure buildings and transportation systems allow for the independent movement of people with disabilities. Great strides have been taken when it comes to refurbishment, policies and regulations, but also when it comes to assistive technology, to make the UAE a disabled-friendly nation.

And while it is important to exert more efforts in rolling out and implementing those policies in a country where we have all become used to fast-paced change, we must remember that some things cannot happen overnight.

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