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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 19 December 2018

Disability campaigners aim for improved toilet facilities across Dubai 

The Wings of Angelz support group backs moves to make hospitals more wheelchair accessible but says toilets can be a hazard for disabled people.

Shobhika Kalra, of Wings of Angelz, has worked with the RTA to get more access ramps installed across Dubai. Satish Kumar / The National
Shobhika Kalra, of Wings of Angelz, has worked with the RTA to get more access ramps installed across Dubai. Satish Kumar / The National

Disability campaigners have backed plans to improve access to private health centres in Dubai within six months.

While most hospitals have adequate provisions for disabled patients when it comes to entry ramps, accessing bathrooms can be a problem, according to Shobhika Kalra, of public campaign group Wings of Angelz.

She founded the group with her sister in 2014 and has worked closely with Dubai’s Roads and Transport Authority to encourage installation of access ramps in metro stations and other key buildings in the emirate.

“Most hospitals have ramps, so are pretty adequate, but using the toilets is a big issue in some buildings,” she said.

“There are disabled washrooms all over but the flooring in all the washrooms are with regular tiles. Being wheelchair-bound over a period of time makes you lose grip on the floor.

“So even with the handles in the disabled washrooms, disabled people cannot access the washrooms easily unless the flooring is a little rough so they don’t slide.

“The flooring is definitely not a good-looking option but it is required.”

While figures for attendance at Dubai Health Authority by disabled patients are not available, more than 2.1 million outpatient clinic visits were made last year.

Of that number, 973,787 patients visited Latifa Hospital, Dubai Hospital, Rashid Hospital and Hatta Hospital. A further 1,045,000 visited the DHA’s 15 primary health care centres, 168,000 used specialist centres and 1,898,194 used DHA medical fitness centres.

According to the World Health Organisation, about one in 100 people live with a disability so as many as 28,000 of Dubai’s 2.8 million population could be disabled.

The notice to improve disabled facilities at all private healthcare facilities is the latest government move to improve access across the city ahead of Expo 2020 under the Dubai Disability Strategy 2020.

It was announced last week that all private healthcare facilities in Dubai have been given six months to ensure they are disabled-friendly.

Five key areas are being improved - early developmental screening; diagnosis and early interventions; health benefits and funding; inclusive health policy for the disabled; and rehabilitation and mental health services.

Although disabled access is improving across the emirate, Ms Kalra said more can be done.

One Wings of Angelz success story is the group’s work with Aster Clinics to make it easier for disabled patients to visit.

“Aster health clinics were not wheelchair accessible but now that has improved with our requests,” she added.

“We require efforts like these when someone provides them with constructive feedback, and they make a positive change.

“We would all like to see empathy, instead of sympathy. We ask that whenever someone interacts with a person with a disability, they should imagine how it would be if you were in their shoes and then deal with that situation accordingly.”