Survey shows lack of backing for disabled

This is the internationally recognized symbol ...Residents in Dubai believe persons with disability cannot effectively participate in political and public life, according to a survey carried out by a research fellow at the Dubai School of Government (DSG).

More than 50 per cent of the 650 respondents to a survey on attitudes towards the disabled carried out by Victor Pineda did not see individuals with disabilities in leadership positions.

The survey results are part of an extensive study being conducted by Pineda on the disability policies in the country and included the responses of both UAE nationals and expatriates in Dubai. “It is believed that people with disabilities cannot make their own decisions,” Pineda said.

 In the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, Participation in Political and Public Life, as explained in Article 29, are the rights to form a group, serve the public, access voting booths, vote and be elected to a government position.

Such rights are not explicitly mentioned in the UAE Disability Act of 2006. Pineda calls for committees that are for and by Persons with Disabilities (PWD’s), representing their voice and including them in decisions that affect them.

More than 47 per cent UAE nationals and 53 per cent expatriates felt that disabled people are not capable of making moral decisions, that they are child like and have a deviant personality.

“There are just a handful of people with disabilities in positions of power in the UAE,” says Pineda.
According to him, although one might find people with disabilities in high positions they do not understand the main issues that others with disabilities face.

People with disabilities are often beneficiaries of policies and programmes that they have never been consulted on. “We are not working for people with disability but we need to work with them and involve them in the awareness programmes and policies,” said Pineda.

In 1996, the European Disability Forum, an independent non-governmental organisation was created to secure active participation of people with disabilities in the decision making process involving the European Union. It represents the interests of 65 million people in the EU and ensures their say in the decisions taken for their welfare.

Pineda, who specialises in disability policy, planning and regional development, joined DSG in 2009 to analyse the UAE Disablity Act and its implementation in different segments of the society. The Act that was passed in 2006 mandates the welfare and progress of the disabled in the country, incorporating several articles of the UN Convention.

While the law explicitly addresses aspects of health, rehabilitation and special education for the disabled, Pineda has found gaps in aspects of public participation, independent living and awareness.
“The UAE is very much like the rest of the world where there have been three dominant approaches by which disability policies are understood,” said the researcher. “State policy even in the UAE primarily tackles disability as a health issue.”

Rehabilitation is offered to strengthen the capacity and functions of the disabled, and special education had been introduced for those who cannot be in mainstream education. But these do not contribute to the complete social welfare of the individual, stresses Pineda.

“There are new ways to think about disability policies that tackle social inclusion,” he said. “Because, although a person with a disability may have the health, education and rehabilitation which I call the old approach to the disability policy, he/she cannot enjoy it because the new approaches — mobility, public participation, independent living — are missing. It requires an investment by the state and the government to provide the quality of life and dignity these individuals want.”

There was a positive feedback from respondents on topics of health benefits and education with 80 per cent of the Emiratis favouring equal rights to people with disabilities. Originally published by Khaleej Times.

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