ABU DHABI // Experts have called for more people with disabilities to be integrated into schools and workplaces.
Mariam Al Qubaisi, head of special needs at the Zayed Higher Organisation for Humanitarian Care and Special Needs, said that the eventual goal was 100 per cent inclusion.
“We are responsible for all people. They should be included and given better opportunities,” Ms Al Qubaisi said.
There are 21,956 people with special needs or disability across the country, 11,606 of whom are in Abu Dhabi.
Ms Al Qubaisi said schools needed to better support pupils with special needs.
Inclusion was not just about putting disabled children in a classroom but also providing the right teachers and staff support, the best classroom setting, and transport to and from school, she said.
“Inclusion needs a holistic vision,” Ms Al Qubaisi said. “We have to take all this into consideration. We should facilitate life for them.”
She also spoke of the importance of not grouping together all those with special needs or disabilities.
“Each person with special needs has a special need,” Ms Al Qubaisi said. “We should provide for those needs.”
Marwan Al Sawaleh, undersecretary at the Ministry of Education, also highlighted the need for integration, especially in UAE schools.
“We should guide them by having legislation and rules that support them and give them rights,” Mr Al Sawaleh said.
More than 1 billion people around the world have a disability, said Sheikha Dr Alya Al Qasimi, director of the social programmes and inclusion department at the Community Development Authority.
But more than 80 cent of these can be productive members of society with minimum intervention, she said.
Simon Mellor, president of DMG Events, the company behind ABILITIESme, said he hoped the conference would become an annual fixture.
“This event highlights the opportunities that those who are perhaps less able can provide to society,” Mr Mellor said.
“The event is designed to support the family at home, to develop education and also aimed at raising awareness to the employer of the value that those individuals can fulfil in society.”