Four people with disabilities were among the hundreds of Emiratis who registered to run for election to the Federal National Council in Abu Dhabi this week.
A woman with a visual impairment, a deaf IT specialist and a young man who uses a wheelchair were some of the hopefuls to register their intent to represent their emirate in the October elections.
Thursday was the final day of registrations across the country and, at the centre in Abu Dhabi city, Hind Al Awadhi said it was time for someone with a disability to put forward their issues at the UAE’s advisory council.
Ms Al Awadhi, 49, has a genetic eye condition that narrowed her line of vision to the point that she can see only straight ahead.
“While fully sighted people can see from the corners of their eyes and read small text on a mobile phone or computer screens, we cannot,” said the marriage counsellor at Abu Dhabi Judicial Department.
"We cannot drive and we can only see big screens. At night we lose our sight completely – everything turns black."
Ms Al Awadhi said that despite her condition, she has been blessed with many other qualities that have allowed her to live a successful life and build a good career.
A certified life coach, the mother of five hopes to use her experience and “outstanding social skills” to represent the issues raised by Emiratis from Abu Dhabi at the council, should she be elected.
Potential candidates have been barred from revealing their campaign goals until after the final list is announced, on September 3. But Ms Al Awadhi said encouraging Emiratis to make careful decisions about marriage was an important topic to her.
"My slogan is 'From determination to the top'," she told The National on Thursday.
“I want to make society aware that we [people with disabilities] are here and we are capable of accomplishing great things. Even if we have been deprived of some abilities, God has compensated us with other exceptional qualities.”
Salem Al Mazrouei also registered as a potential candidate in Abu Dhabi on Thursday.
He said he vowed to support people with special needs – particularly those who are deaf like him – if elected to the council.
“The main reason I decided to nominate myself is to serve the country in all sectors,” he said in sign language, with the help of a translator.
“Despite having a disability, I have a lot to give to my beloved UAE,” the IT specialist said.
Saeed Al Suwaidi, a blind candidate, registered at the Abu Dhabi centre on Wednesday.
He said that, if elected, he hoped to serve as an example for people with special needs to show that they can play a significant role in society.
"I vow to be an effective member at the council," he said as he was guided through the process by the deputy head of the Abu Dhabi registration centre, Rashid Al Ghafli.
Mr Al Ghafli said it was the first time people with disabilities registered as potential candidates for the FNC since the first elections were held in 2006.
“And this is the first time that we have equipped the centres in Abu Dhabi fully to accommodate them.”
He said ramps were installed to allow wheelchair users easy access to the centres and dedicated guides were available to help people through the process.
Five hundred and fifty five applications, of which 200 were from women, were submitted at registration centres across the Emirates over the five-day registration period, the FNC Election Committee said on Thursday.
Ahmad Al Mazrouei, 28, was so keen to register that he visited the Al Dhafra centre twice.
The wheelchair user was among the first to show up when registration began on Sunday but could not complete the procedure because he lacked one of the documents needed. He visited the centre again on Thursday to complete his registration.
“I was the first person of determination to go register in Al Dhafra,” he said.
The Emirati was born with a walking disability and uses a wheelchair to move around.
“I thought I will try my luck and encourage people like me to go.”