These Emirati pupils want to help more people with special needs get into university

A legacy of the Special Olympics held in Abu Dhabi, Peoplability seeks to get more people into higher education and the workplace

Alyazia Al Hadhrami, left, and Ghalyah Al Hendi, whose project has been selected to represent the UAE. Victor Besa / The National
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Two Emirati school friends have set up a non-profit organisation to help people with special needs apply for places in university and employment.

Peoplability, an online platform, matches pupils with special needs with universities or companies they are interested in applying to, ensuring the institutions are aware of their requirements.

Grade 11 pupils, Ghalyah Al Hendi and Alyazia Al Hadhrami, both 16, got their idea after working together for Unified Robotics, a Special Olympics UAE robotics competition.

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It’s not going to be 100 per cent special needs people. The goal is for everyone to engage together.”
Ghalyah Al Hendi

As part of their work with the Special Olympics, they were invited to take part in the Disability Summit at Expo 2020 Dubai, where they saw people with special needs struggle to adapt to jobs, or apply to universities.

The idea was to collaborate with local and global universities to hold monthly webinars and to help young people with disabilities from high school, said Ghalyah.

The result was Peoplability.

The pair submitted the idea to the Special Olympics Global Youth Leadership Summit 2020, where it was selected to represent the UAE. They have since received funding from Special Olympics UAE to further develop the concept.

The main goal is to help people with special needs to get into university, said Alyazia.

ABU DHABI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - March 17, 2018: Athletes participate in a parade during the opening ceremony of the Special Olympics IX MENA Games Abu Dhabi 2018, at the Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre (ADNEC).

( Hamad Al Mansouri for Crown Prince Court - Abu Dhabi )
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Sessions start off with a company or admissions introducing themselves and the special needs services they offer, which could be physical or mental health help.

“And then we would do a little activity. It would depend on the collaboration with us and the university or company,” said Ghalyah.

“Afterwards, and if Covid permits, they would select a number of students who would then come into the university or company and get a tour or get an internship. That really helps them adapt.

“Of course, the priority goes to the people with special needs. But we want it to be for everyone and be inclusive. So it’s not going to be 100 per cent special needs people. The goal is for everyone to engage together.”

Special Olympics UAE is offering help in the form of photoshoots and funding for items such as T-shirts to raise awareness of the project.

The pupils have so far teamed up with New York University Abu Dhabi, Abu Dhabi University and the sovereign wealth fund Mubadala.

The initiative will launch soon, starting with the girls’ own school, Adnoc School Sas Al Nakhl.

“We will have a dedicated week we organised with the head of the special needs department [of the school],” said Alyazia.

“It’s going to be Peoplability Awareness Week on both [the boys and girls'] campuses. We have a high school population of around 1,200 students, both female and male.”

If that is a success, Peoplability will branch out to offer its services to all schools in Abu Dhabi in term three of this academic year.

“Then the big vision is to get schools from all over the UAE taking part in this,” said Alyazia.

Updated: February 13, 2022, 9:59 AM
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