Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 19 November 2019

UAE companies urged to change attitude towards disability

'We don’t want employment for the sake of employment but to move forward from that,' says campaigner Fatma Al Jassim

Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates - Fatma Al Jassim, teacher, student and advisor to the gorvernment at the launch of ÒBee The ChangeÓ Campaign, Nation Towers. Khushnum Bhandari for The National
Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates - Fatma Al Jassim, teacher, student and advisor to the gorvernment at the launch of ÒBee The ChangeÓ Campaign, Nation Towers. Khushnum Bhandari for The National

A new campaign has been launched to empower people with disabilities across the UAE.

Companies are being challenged to change their attitude towards 'people of determination' and make them part of the workforce.

Zayed Higher Organisation for People of Determination provides training, support and social services for 1,500 young Emiratis with special needs and learning difficulties in Abu Dhabi. It said the drive launched on Monday is the legacy of the Special Olympics World Games in March.

If people of determination get the proper skill sets, they will find employment

Fatma Al Jassim

As part of its campaign a cafe staffed by people with disabilities will open, while a new proposal to be put forward to the Executive Council will guarantee their right to work.

ZHO chairman Sheikh Khalid bin Zayed Al Nahyan said the country has made great leaps "in moving people of determination to the stage of empowerment and integration with their peers in society, to ensure a decent future and a life with full rights".

A short film showing the achievements of people with disabilities, at the Special Olympics and in day to day life, is part of the campaign, which is sponsored by broadcaster CNN.

It tackles misconceptions and focuses on the incredible feats that can be achieved.

Fatma Al Jassim, 23, a Zayed University student with cerebral palsy, advises the government on disability.

“We don’t want employment for the sake of employment but to move forward from that," she said.

"We need companies to open their minds and foster people of determination as equals. We are not looking for special treatment. We are looking for opportunity.

"Education and employment are interlinked and if people of determination get the proper skill sets, they will find employment."

The Bee Cafe will soon open at the Zayed Higher Organisation's campus, adjacent to Mafraq Hospital, on the outskirts of the city.

It is named after ZHO's logo - a bee - and the new campaign 'Bee the Change'. It will train people to run a business and in practical skills.

"The purpose of the campaign is show that the legacy of the Special Olympics remains and continues," said ZHO general secretary Abdulla Al Humaidan.

"It addresses important aspects for society to change and accept people of determination."

His organisation is urging employers - particularly the private sector and not just government - to make people of determination part of their workforce.

"Since the World Games, we have recruited 120 people of determination in the private sector," Mr Al Humaidan said, adding that it is hoped many more find employment with the right support.

Officials stressed they do not want to see companies forced to take on people with disabilities, with a legally-imposed quota for example, but hired willingly by employers.

“We are developing skilled people and based on that we will allocate the right job for them so we know their capabilities, develop them and then match them to a job,” Mr Al Humaidan said.

Across the globe, fewer than ten per cent of people with disabilities are fully employed.

A proposal for Abu Dhabi decision makers will be put forward soon and set out how people with disability can get better access to employment.

“We have a strategic plan for the employment of people of determination which will be submitted to the Executive Council and will be announced soon," said Dr Mugheer Al Khaili, chairman of the Department of Community Development.

"A large part of it also concerns their education, health and introducing technology to help empower them. I hope that it will be presented to the council this month and implemented soon after."

Updated: November 4, 2019 06:08 PM

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