Abu Dhabi students with special needs get new buses

Emirates Transport recently added nine specially equipped school buses taking the fleet of such vehicles to 13, which will serve as many government schools in the capital.

Abdul Hadi Mir operates a lift on a school bus, which is among a fleet of 30 specially fitted vehicles that will cater to the needs of children with physical disabilities in 13 Abu Dhabi government schools.  Christopher Pike / The National
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ABU DHABI // An increase in the number of school buses for special-needs pupils has been welcomed by educators.

Emirates Transport recently added nine specially equipped school buses taking the fleet of such vehicles to 30, which will serve as 13 government schools in the capital.

“We have a duty to accommodate all students regardless of abilities and needs, and we are delighted to work with our school transport partners to deliver the best possible school transport experience to all students,” said Amer Al Shehhi, manager of government school transport in Abu Dhabi.

In 2013, the Department of Transport introduced new school transport regulations that included rules to make sure buses are fully equipped with facilities for disabled children.

Each of the new buses is equip-ped with wheelchair lifts and hand rails so the children can safely get on and off the buses. They are also fitted with cameras to monitor the journeys, Wi-Fi and televisions to show educational programmes.

The buses also use tracking systems and send notifications to parents and the school confirming pick-ups and drop-offs.

“We recently introduced, in partnership with the Abu Dhabi Education Council, the smart safety system, which includes a wide range of the most advanced technologies,” Mr Al Shehhi said. “This is in addition to insisting on the highest standards of training for all our bus drivers and supervisors, who constitute the most important element in the school transport operation.”

The new technology aims to prevent a repeat of the case of Nizaha Aalaa, the 3-year-old who died of heat exhaustion after being overlooked and locked inside a school bus last year.

“It is a benefit to all students when students with special needs are included in the system,” said Sonia Ben Jaafar, managing director of the EduEval Educational Consultancy.

“What is key is to make sure measurable safety protocols for drivers, disabled and non-disabled students are taught and tested routinely in each bus.”

She believed the new technologies would go some way to ensure the children’s safety.

“The introduction of these technologies to assist in ensuring all our kids are safe as they move to and from school is great,” Ms Ben Jaafar said.

Judith Fennemore, an education consultant for Focal Point Management, said the tracking devices would put to rest anxieties of parents who send their children on school buses.

“I might add that some household drivers could do with tracking devices as well,” Ms Fenne-more said.

Glenn Havinoviski, associate vice president of the US traffic management company Iteris, also praised the moves to get more pupils on school buses.

“The alternative has been that many parents do individual pick-ups and drop-offs of their kids, which can result in a great deal of congestion around a school. But it’s important that parents have confidence in the school transport system,” he said.

School bus operators, including Emirates Transport, needed to provide parents with a degree of confidence, safety and security of their service, Mr Havinoviski said.

“It is critical for schools to sign up properly licensed transport services that have safe buses and properly-trained drivers, rather than just going for the cheapest one.”


This article has been amended to update the number of buses in the fleet.