Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 24 August 2019

Hearing impaired Emiratis dare to dream big ahead of graduation date

Al Ain University of Science and Technology is offering tailored courses to open up access to education to all sections of society

Dr Noor Aldeen Atatreh, chancellor of Al Ain University of Science and Technology, is calling for a nationwide effort to help people with disabilities reach their academic potential. Antonie Robertson/The National
Dr Noor Aldeen Atatreh, chancellor of Al Ain University of Science and Technology, is calling for a nationwide effort to help people with disabilities reach their academic potential. Antonie Robertson/The National

Hearing-impaired Emiratis say they can now “dream of a brighter future” as they prepare to graduate from university.

The class of 30 students from Al Ain University of Science and Technology will receive degrees in applied psychology, applied sociology and special education next month, four years after starting their studies.

The university set up bachelor’s degrees tailored for students with hearing difficulties as part of a strategy to widen access to higher education.

The courses were free to attend and were partly funded by the Ministry of Education.

The initiative has proved such a success that a further 40 undergraduates have enrolled on the courses.

Dr Noor Aldeen Atatreh, chancellor of Al Ain University of Science and Technology, said many UAE residents with impaired hearing would find higher education more affordable if they were able to stay in the UAE.

“Most of these students used to go abroad and faced a heavy financial burden to complete their higher education. Some of them had to leave education because of the costs,” he said.

“We are going to graduate the first batch of hearing-impaired students in Al Ain soon and we received so many requests from people that we managed to get another 40 students at the Abu Dhabi campus.”

The initiative is a partnership between Al Ain University of Science and Technology, the Ministry of Education and the UAE Deaf Association, which was launched in Al Ain in 2015.

It has since been extended to the Abu Dhabi campus.

The university aims to eventually offer courses for students with a variety of special needs.

“We give back to society through various channels and this is one of them. We must not restrict ourselves to financial aid,” Dr Atatreh said.

This has opened up new possibilities and made me dream of a brighter future for myself

Arwa Al-Senani

“The workforce is ruthless and competitive, so students need to be equipped with the right degree.

“This specialisation will be important to these students and will enhance their chances of getting proper jobs.

“They will not be restricted to being receptionists or taking a desk job but will have wider choices.”

The students follow the same curriculum as all other undergraduates but each tutor is accompanied by an interpreter using sign language during lectures and seminars.

“This must be a national effort. I urge all academics to start such initiatives and try to innovate to service this community,” Dr Atatreh said.

“I urge the government to allocate more money. Other special needs like autism also need extra support.”

Hamad Al Darmaki, a 46-year-old Emirati student, will graduate next month.

“I thank Allah. I did not dream of finishing my graduation but I liked to study.

“I enjoyed learning with the help of an interpreter, and I had the chance to meet new people and make new friends through these four years.”

Mr Darmaki has started a job at Injazat Data Systems, an information technology company in Al Ain.

Emirati student Arwa Al Senani, 34, said the course had opened up new possibilities.

“I dream that all universities will allow impaired students to study in different disciplines and to have the opportunity to pursue graduate and postgraduate studies,” she said.

“I enjoyed learning among my peers and this has opened up new possibilities and made me dream of a brighter future for myself and all impaired students.

Updated: June 8, 2019 08:03 PM

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