Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 15 October 2019

Disability does not mean unproductivity, say job seekers with special needs

More than 10 years after an accident left a UAE resident paralysed, a regular job has injected new meaning into his life

Mohammad Zeeshan uses an ATM, that has been adjusted to suit people who use wheelchairs, at Tanfeeth’s office in Dubai. Reem Mohammed / The National
Mohammad Zeeshan uses an ATM, that has been adjusted to suit people who use wheelchairs, at Tanfeeth’s office in Dubai. Reem Mohammed / The National

The stability of a permanent job has helped one UAE resident fight depression after an accident left him paralysed below the waist.

Rehabilitation and repeated visits to the hospital have cost Mohammad Zeeshan, 36, several jobs since his accident 14 years ago.

The Pakistani secured full-time work two years ago in the cheque-processing department of Tanfeeth, which handles back-office operations for Emirates NBD.

But it has taken Mr Zeeshan years to overcome the trauma of his accident in 2005, when he lost control of his car and slammed into a pole.

“Everything changed when I woke up from a coma and doctors told me I was paralysed,” said Mr Zeeshan, who uses a wheelchair.

"I cried. I would not talk to my family or friends and I did not want to go out."

He was unconscious for two weeks after suffering complications from a crushed spine, broken ribs, punctured lungs and internal bleeding.

Getting a job as a processing associate added "new meaning to life" and encouraged him to pass a driving test on a modified hand-operated vehicle this year.

Mohammad Zeeshan joins his team in a training session at Tanfeeth. Reem Mohammed / The National
Mohammad Zeeshan joins his team in a training session at Tanfeeth. Reem Mohammed / The National

“Getting this job has changed me because of the positive energy I feel being financially independent,” he said.

“I like going to different departments, meeting people and learning more about the business.”

Mr Zeeshan is among 34 people with disabilities employed at the Emirates NBD subsidiary. .

The bank organised a Careers Network in Dubai on Wednesday as part of a programme it began three years ago to connect job seekers with disabilities to employers seeking diversity in their workforce.

About 100 people with disabilities met representatives from 14 government and private sector companies at the Emirates Institute of Banking and Financial Studies at Dubai International Academic City on Wednesday.

Since its launch in November 2016, the network has successfully placed 68 people with disabilities in sectors ranging from banking, hospitality to retail.

The programme provides support in the selection, hiring, and training of candidates – even shadowing the new recruits in the first months of employment to ensure they integrate.

Hotels, including the Hilton RAK Resort and Spa, have placed recruits in front-office jobs directly dealing with guests.

The hotel has employed three people with disabilities in guest relations, security and at the lobby.

Muni Pratap, Hilton’s human resources manager, said the programme helped them understand the needs of the candidates and evaluate the changes needed to accommodate the employees – from designated parking spaces to accessible workstations.

New recruit Lassad Bouaziz, 53, has used a wheelchair for the past 10 years after developing lower limb paralysis from a spinal cord infection.

The Tunisian's skills as a former English and French teacher are handy in the guest relations executive position he took on four months ago.

“He has been supporting colleagues by giving English classes once a week to team members,” Mr Pratap said about sessions that are well attended by staff from the housekeeping, kitchen and food and beverage departments.

Mr Bouaziz’s command of English and Arabic made him a natural choice to reply to queries on the hotel's websites in both languages.

He has a simple message to companies.

“Disability does not mean unproductivity,” he said.

“Guests interact with me the same way they would with any of my colleagues and treat me with the same level of respect.”

He hopes employers will view him as an example to hire more people with disabilities.

Mr Zeeshan also hopes more companies will recruit more people of determination.

“People could be partially blind, they may not be able to hear or may be slow to understand but companies should take the initiative,” said Mr Zeeshan.

“Companies will never get people who are more committed to work.”

Updated: September 18, 2019 05:03 PM

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