Daily struggles of the disabled

We need a structural assessment of cities if we really want to make life easier for them

Sulaiman Al Ameri, 40, an Emirati disabled driver, in his modified vehicle, parked outside his apartment building in the Al Zahiya area area of Abu Dhabi on August 25, 2014. Christopher Pike / The National
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In many societies, there is a stigma attached to physical and mental disability. The case of Ahmed Al Kaabi, an Emirati man with epilepsy who has had enormous difficulty finding a secure job, is a good example of this. What is remarkable about his case, however, is that it seems to demonstrate our society's ability to see a stigma for what it is and rise to the challenge of overcoming it. After The National covered Mr Al Kaabi's plight, a handful of business-owners stepped forward with the offer of a permanent job. It is a small but significant step in breaking down the barriers that are hedged around conditions like epilepsy.

This is good but it isn’t enough. The natural next step must be an assement of opportunities and facilities for people with all sorts of disabilities, including the physical. The hard truth is that some of our efforts to make life and work easier for the physically disabled have fallen woefully short. This is not for lack of intention but the lack of proper implementation. We have all seen dangerously steep and impractical handicapped ramps around offices. They are hardly likely to make it easier for the disabled to get to work and get around.

This is why we need to embrace efforts by concerned citizens to kick-start awareness about this problem with infrastructure. Shobhika Kalra, a young wheelchair user, has been spearheading efforts to create 50 more ramps around Dubai. Her efforts are the result of collaborations with authorities and businesses as The National reported yesterday.

The struggles that physically disabled people face are not a local issue. It is something that affects people all over the world. Given the compassion at the heart of our society and the modernising streak that is driving infrastructure development in our cities, the UAE is perfectly situated to not only solve this problem but become an example to other countries. But we do need to be honest about how much there is to do. Knowing where we want to arrive will help identify the route we take.