x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Deaf face enormous challenges

It is often difficult for people with physical and mental disabilities to find work.

SHARJAH // Amar Dhahab is hoping to study engineering at university when he graduates.

But the 21-year-old Grade 11 student at the Al Amal School for the Deaf at the Sharjah City for Humanitarian Services already knows he will probably have to study abroad.

"There are a lot of challenges for deaf persons in the UAE," he said. "There aren't too many education options, as very few know sign language."

Even if he earns his university degree, Amar knows he will face another uphill battle when he returns to the UAE and tries to find work.

"I have seen some deaf friends who are paid less for the same job that may be held by a person who is not," he said. "It is not right because they do it with the same efficiency."

Haidar Talib is the general manager of Al Thiqa Club for the Handicapped in Sharjah, which is funded by the Sharjah government. He also journeyed across all seven emirates in his solar-powered wheelchair last year, and has served as a member of the education committee for the UAE's disability law.

The 2006 law protects the rights of people with special needs to employment, but does not make any specifications about hiring.

"The law is there, but there's no mechanical part to it," said Mr Talib. "No one is following up on it, either."

Some 500 people use Al Thiqa Club, accessing its sports and recreation facilities and job training and finding services. Many of them face a hard time securing employment, he said.

There are so few facilities catering to disabled pupils, particularly in the Northern Emirates, that many of them have not even been to school, he said.

And even if they have, existing attitudes mean it is hardest to find work for people with mental disabilities.

"Even people with small mental disabilities," he said. "There's still a perception that they will harm others or themselves."

Many employers still demand a university degree from would-be employees, creating a further barrier - one the club is working to have removed.

"I've spoken to many companies and banks and they said they were willing to take them on if they have some training," he said. "However, when we go back a few years later, we find that they are still in entry-level positions and they are being held back from promotion because they don't have a degree."