Abu Dhabi to empower disabled and elderly with new inclusivity drive

Authorities set out plan to boost services and create new jobs

From left, Mohamed Alaydaroos, Noura Al Blooki and Hamad Al Hamadi at the launch event at Aldar Properties headquarters, on Yas Island. Victor Besa / The National
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Abu Dhabi has set out a plan to boost inclusivity across the emirate, with the aim of boosting public access and services for people with disabilities and the elderly and creating more jobs.

The Abu Dhabi Department of Community Development and Aldar Properties announced the wide-ranging strategy on Monday, with a pilot phase taking place in Yas Island in the first quarter of this year.

The key initiative will focus on improving both physical and digital accessibility to public facilities, transport and housing, as well as education, health, social and entertainment services.

This will later be applied across the emirates, Sara Bachar, a senior specialist for people of determination at the Department of Community Development.

“These services can be inclusive education services at schools, or training staff at hotels to accommodate and provide services to elderly guests or people of determination," Ms Bachar said. "There are also the water parks – so beyond the infrastructure, it's about providing services so they can enjoy their journey.”

An impact assessment of the Yas Island initiative will be carried out in 2025, with authorities hoping to introduce the project to the rest of the emirate in 2026.

Under the campaign, Abu Dhabi aims to create more than 100 jobs for people with disabilities and secure Abu Dhabi's membership as an Elderly Friendly City, as designated by the World Health Organisation.

Boosting access for all

“It isn’t only about having ramps and areas for us,” said Noura Al Blooki, 33.

The digital media editor at Abu Dhabi Media was diagnosed when she was nine years old with a rare genetic condition called chronic inflammatory demyelinating polyneuropathy, which causes impaired sensory functions in the arms and legs.

“We would love to see accessible water taxi boats, for example, and services for people with Down syndrome or those with autism.

"Many are triggered by loud noise, so if there are headphones that could be made available for them and more people educated in how to support them, it would be great.

"The key is having that connection – someone who is in contact with people of determination and knows what everyone needs. For me, for example, I need ramps, but sometimes these ramps are too steep for me and end up being an obstacle.

“I am excited for this project and can’t wait for Yas and Abu Dhabi to be accessible for everyone.”

Older members of the community have also welcomed the scheme and have ideas for support they would like to be provided.

Saeed Al Ameri, 61, and Masood Al Otaiba, 68, called for dedicated parking spaces for senior citizens close to public spaces including parks and malls, and a discount card for the elderly.

Salem Saeed, 70, spoke of the need for older people to be given the chance to contribute to society.

“There are many services that could help make our lives easier, but the main thing is that it makes us feel included and not forgotten by society – neglect is what makes us age,” he said.

Wheelchair user expresses joy as Abu Dhabi boosts disabled access at beaches

Wheelchair user expresses joy as Abu Dhabi boosts disabled access at beaches

Inclusive vision

In December, Abu Dhabi outlined plans to open up access to a number of its beaches to wheelchair users.

The Department of Municipalities and Transport joined forces with Mubadala, the emirate's sovereign investment arm, to put in place remote control ramps that allow people with disabilities to enjoy the waters independently.

The solar-powered tracks – designed by Greek company Seatrac – are fitted with a chair which transports users from the sands to the sea. Beach-goers can use the rails of the ramp to lower themselves into the sea and to lift themselves back into the chair.

Updated: January 22, 2024, 3:58 PM