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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 April 2019

Expo 2020 Dubai seeks employees and volunteers with disabilities

World fair volunteers to represent emirate's diversity

Salem Bawazir heads a team that hires and trains people with disabilities to work for Expo 2020 Dubai. He has cerebral palsy. Courtesy Expo 2020 Dubai
Salem Bawazir heads a team that hires and trains people with disabilities to work for Expo 2020 Dubai. He has cerebral palsy. Courtesy Expo 2020 Dubai

In less than two years, Dubai will welcome the world to its doorstep for Expo 2020. Volunteers from all walks of life will represent the emirate and the expo team is making sure that representation will be as diverse as Dubai is.

Salem Bawazir is the head of a team that hires and train people with disabilities to work with Expo 2020 Dubai. The 46-year-old man has cerebral palsy and uses a wheelchair.

His colleague, Emirati Ali Al Balooshi, works as a trainee, welcoming visitors to expo events. The 18-year-old is hearing impaired.

The pair are some of the success stories of an Expo Programme of Inclusion, that launched on Sunday, and calls on UAE nationals with disabilities to apply for jobs with the world fair.

The two men were part of a pilot project, that began in September, to offer employment to people with disabilities so they could develop skills and gain work experience.

Soon after being offered a full-time job with Expo, Mr Bawazir recruited three people with disabilities.

One of his first recruits is a visually impaired university graduate from Fujairah who will begin work at the Dubai South expo site next week.

"I always ask people to look at my ability, not my disability,” said Mr Bawazir, a human resources administrator with the expo workforce and volunteer department.

“I am enjoying being at Expo 2020 because I’m able to make real decisions that matter."

He is also part of the accessibility working group that will provide guidance and suggestions to improve access to the millions of visitors during the six-month world fair that begins in October 2020.

While Mr Bawazir communicates via email and WhatsApp, Mr Al Balooshi uses sign language and is teaching his co-workers key gestures with plans to train other staffers.

Fatima Alloghani, head of the Expo Academy and Emiratisation, said she has seen Mr Bawazir’s confidence grow since beginning his job at the expo.

“Salem is self-taught, articulate and a good writer but he hesitated to speak because he thought people would not understand what he says. It has been a learning not just for him but for us as well. At presentations now, he speaks for 30 minutes non-stop,” she said.

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The two men were assigned jobs based on their interests rather than routinely filling a vacant administrative position.

“We have a four-week training programme based on understanding what they can do and what they are passionate about instead of focusing on what they cannot do. Instead of imposing our tasks on them, we learn with them to give us a better idea of who they are and what they want to do,” Ms Alloghani said.

Staff will undergo awareness sessions so they understand the need to talk to people with disabilities beyond communication related to work.

“The worst thing you can do is employ people with disabilities and then ignore them or not socialise with them. We need to train people to learn to work and deal with people of determination,” she said.

“We have promised an expo for everyone so we want to make sure we give people equal opportunities during the making and preparation for the event so they can be part of the planning and decision making.”

The expo is working with the Ministry of Community Development to reach people with disabilities.

On Sunday, the call went out from expo to UAE citizens with disabilities to apply for jobs, internships and volunteering opportunities.

There is no fixed target of people with disabilities that the expo plans to take on.

“Organisations and society can be more determined about empowering them. People need to put aside any fear they may have about how this experience will be,” said Ms Alloghani said.

“We also need to give people with determination work that is meaningful and not just a side job.”

Updated: December 9, 2018 07:04 PM

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