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Conclusion of the Dubai Inclusive Development Forum 2015

Conclusion of the Dubai Inclusive Development Forum 2015

Dubai, 12 October 2015: The Dubai Inclusive Development Forum 2015, organized by the General Secretariat of the Executive Council of Dubai, under the patronage of H.H. Sheikh Mansoor bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Chairman of the Higher Committee for the Protection of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, held on 11 and 12 October, was concluded today, with the participation of a group of international speakers and government task force teams.

H.E. Abdullah Al Shaibani, Secretary General of the Executive Council of Dubai and Vice Chairman of the Higher Committee for the Protection of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, praised the success achieved by the forum with the participation of experts, specialists and academics, and in the presence of policy makers from the government interested in benefiting from the knowledge exchanged during the sessions and workshops held during the event. The organizers were committed to presenting the best practices and programs applied worldwide to promote the inclusion of the persons with disabilities in the community.

In this regard, he explained: "The contribution of individual participants and the local and international government entities in making the Dubai Inclusive Development Forum 2015 succeed proves the collective will to raise awareness among all segments of society to integrate the persons with disabilities. The importance of this step lies in its ultimate goal, which is to achieve justice and equal opportunities for persons with disabilities without any distinction and without being at the expense of a certain segment of society."

Creation of Services and Infrastructure

During her speech, H.E. Mariam Khalfan Al Roumi, Minister of Social Affairs, praised the fact that the “Dubai Inclusive Development Forum” discussed very important topics that reinforce the steps towards achieving the objectives of the Dubai Plan 2021, of which the content focuses on the inclusion of persons with disabilities in society through the provisioning of an accessible environment and facilities, such as transport and others. Dubai has taken a wide step in this field and achieved international success. It is receiving today various nationalities from all over the world and focuses on the creation of services and infrastructure to reinforce accessible tourism and attract a large number of visitors who will benefit from those facilities. The Government of Dubai takes this matter seriously and works constantly on the development of plans and strategies related to this initiative.

Unified Roof

H.E. Khaled Al Kamda, Director General of the Community Development Authority and member of the Higher Committee for the Protection of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, stressed the importance of gathering, under one roof, all the parties related to the development of the life of persons with disabilities and their inclusion in society, thus allowing the exchange of experiences and expertise as well as the discussion of challenges and suggestions guaranteeing common coordination and work according to a unified and integrated strategy. He stated: “The “My Community… A City for Everyone” initiative found a unified roof to reach a disability-friendly city that gives persons with disabilities their rights in a fair and equivalent manner and provides them with protection against abuse, exploitation and neglect. The “Dubai Inclusive Development Forum” gives the teams working on the implementation of programs and projects under the initiative, the opportunity to learn about the latest and most successful experiences applied locally and globally. It also allows to uncover practical solutions and actions to overcome the challenges that may face the achievement of the vision of the “My Community” initiative.” 

He added: “The Community Development Authority launched through its work related to social protection and employment of persons with disabilities, several constituent programs as a support for persons with disabilities to create an integrated database and a larger awareness of the current state of persons with disabilities and their needs in Dubai thus allowing the development of services that meet these needs and that are beneficial to all concerned authorities”.
“While we seek to work according to the highest international standards so that Dubai becomes a role model in the field of granting equal opportunities and social empowerment of persons with disabilities, the “Dubai Inclusive Development Forum” attracts world-class expertise in this field and puts at the disposal of the participants the most successful experiences and the best practices from around the world so that they can be used as basis according to the characteristics and needs of our society.” 

Future Plans

The second day of the forum was opened by the keynote speech of Ms. Aisha Miran, Assistant Secretary General, Strategy Management Sector at the General Secretariat of the Executive Council of Dubai, where she presented the efforts made towards the inclusion of persons with disabilities in the plans and strategies set by the Emirate, starting with the Dubai Plan 2021 and ending with the initiatives and policies included in the Dubai Strategy for Persons with Disabilities 2020. 
She started by praising the attention and care given by our wise leaders to persons with disabilities and their families, such as the field visits made by H.H. Sheikh Mansoor bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Chairman of the Higher Committee for the Protection of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, to see the progress of work and the services available to persons with disabilities and to listen to their families talk about the challenges they face. H.H. is keen to ensure that the Disability Strategy 2020 is based on correct foundations that depend on the reality lived by persons with disabilities. 

During her speech, Ms. Miran presented the wireframe of the "My Community... A City for Everyone" initiative, considered a road map towards turning Dubai into a fully disability-friendly city by the year 2020, by focusing on five strategic pillars: education, health and (re)habilitation, infrastructure and universal accessibility employment and social protection. She stressed in her speech on the importance of raising awareness on the rights of persons with disabilities in the community, in exchange with duties carried out by the latter segment in order to improve their country. She also noted the overall objectives that the government seeks to adopt in the formulation of its policies and the design of its programs, such as promoting equal opportunities, preserving social cohesion and building our community. 
She added: "The inclusion of persons with disabilities in the community needs innovation and the provision of several supporting social services as well as promoting social awareness, which would help their inclusion and confirm their participation in the development of a bright future for the Emirate".

She concluded her speech by stating the necessity of setting future plans to promote awareness among employees on the best methods and practices to serve persons of various disabilities through the appropriate services, facilities and infrastructure to ensure their rights in life and increase their participation in society on an equal basis with others.

Terminology Handbook

A disability terminology handbook was launched containing the terms to be used to define and refer to persons with disabilities. This handbook offers explanatory information about the misconceptions of disability and terms to be “approved” and “avoided”, as well as tips on how to create stories and conduct interviews with persons with disabilities. Ms. Miran stressed, during her speech, on the importance of referring to this handbook as a main reference for the media to ameliorate the terms used, for example “persons with disabilities” instead of “disabled persons”. This is to change the society’s perception towards these persons as they should be recognized as persons with abilities and qualifications first, before their disabilities. 

Distinct Mental Capabilities

Dr. Peyvand Khaleghian, Managing Partner at Avicenna Partners, specialized in healthcare investments, discussed several topics related to innovations in inclusive development for persons with complex medical needs, during his speech entitled “Innovations in the Inclusive Planning of Persons with Complex Medical Needs.” He stated: “The inclusion of persons with complex medical needs in society is necessary. This process should not be limited to persons with mobile or visual disabilities only, as there are people with full physical disabilities requiring early intervention and vigorous care so that they can live a normal life”.

Khaleghian showed several cases of persons who were not responded to when they needed it, which worsened their situation. Some believe that the 24-hour intensive care required by this segment of society has caused them to be neglected or not be afforded all required services, and he confirmed that many of these persons have distinct mental capabilities. 

Khaleghian explained that the UAE develops and uses all potential opportunities that help this segment of society live naturally and with ease. The first step of inclusion is that we understand the possibility of persons with disabilities to live a normal life as they are able to think and communicate effectively, and this is a deep-rooted culture in the UAE society. 
The forum's agenda included six special sessions organized with international experts, academics and government task force teams formed for the development of strategic policies and programs aimed to achieve Dubai’s future vision in the inclusion of persons with disabilities and their provision with equal opportunities. These sessions were divided to discuss the formulation of the plans, the identification of obstacles and to derive required alternatives in order to fully integrate persons with disabilities in the community. These sessions included the fields of inclusive development, inclusive employment and establishment of business, inclusive education, inclusive tourism, hospitality and entertainment as well as social protection. 

The forum was concluded by Dr. Salem Alshafei, Director of Policies and Programs, Rights of Persons with Disabilities at the General Secretariat of the Executive Council of Dubai, where he reviewed the initiatives to be applied by government entities and task force teams. Such initiatives included: the creation of a category for the best government agency for the inclusion of persons with disabilities, within the awards of the Dubai Government Excellence Program, a public and community-based campaign aimed at changing the culture and mindset of the society towards the rights of persons with disabilities, project of evaluation of infrastructure, communication and information technology, development of plans that apply to the principles of universal design thus making all the utilities and services offered in Dubai accessible for persons with disabilities, in addition to project of developing clinics for the rehabilitation of this segment of the population.

Parts of the Forum 
  • The forum featured live art performance by persons with disabilities, which caught the interest of the participants. Paintings were displayed, in addition to artistic shows, T-shirt printing, handicrafts and piano. 
  • The forum started with the national anthem of the United Arab Emirates played live by 27 Emirati children with disabilities from the Dubai Center for Special Needs related to the Ministry of Social Affairs. 
  • More than 15 volunteers, male and female, registered at the Dubai Volunteering Center related to the Community Development Authority and Al Noor Training Center for Children with Special Needs, participated in the organization of the forum. They were trained by the Tamkeen Center for Visually Impaired Persons. 
  • The General Secretariat of the Executive Council of the Emirate of Dubai organized in the evening of the first day of the forum, a leisure trip for the speakers as they were taken in a tour to see the Emirate's services and facilities that are accessible by the persons with disabilities. The tour included the Dubai Metro as well. The speakers then went for dinner at an Emirati restaurant where they discussed the projects to be announced in order to achieve the "My Community... a City or Everyone" initiative to turn Dubai into a disability-friendly city by the year 2020.

It should be noted that the "Dubai Inclusive Development Forum 2015" started this week, with the participation of more than 30 international and local speakers and in the presence of around 400 persons from government task force teams, which are interested in the field of inclusion of persons with disabilities in the community. The sessions of the forum over the two days, witnessed a distinguished interaction between the participants and the attendees.