Helping individuals lead fulfilling lives
Campaigner says firms are more willing to hire
Attitudes towards employing people with disabilities are slowly changing, the head of a Dubai special needs centre has said, after years of trying to get her pupils into the workplace.
Safia Bari, founder of the Special Needs for Future Development Centre (SNF) in Karama, said she currently has seven of the centre’s students preparing for interviews with companies.
By contrast, she has only ever seen four successfully secure jobs in almost ten years.
Bari said she has seen that firms are gradually becoming more willing to take on those with disabilities.
At the centre she runs, some have learning difficulties, while others have physical disabilities, such as being deaf.
Bari spoke to 7DAYS at a time when she is seeking more funds for the centre, which has capacity for 40 young people, but has another 105 on the waiting list.
She said: “When I was setting SNF up, it was very hard to find a place [for the centre]. A lot of companies and real estate firms were not okay with having special needs students in their building.
“Even if we got permission, they said our students can only use service lifts and not the common areas.
“But now we have volunteers coming in from many corporations who interact with the students and realise how good they are - it is a huge difference.” By Mahak Mannan
She added: “We encourage these companies to give our students an opportunity to work with them once they are ready.
“It is a little difficult to convince them but once they have experienced being around the students, they are on board.”
Splash, Wipro, Emirates NBD and Avenue are among the companies reviewing opportunities for students from SNF.
And she said those that are not hiring often help to prepare pupils for interviews.
Two of the four pupils that secured jobs went to work for clothing store Splash.
Pakistani expat Arsalan Ahmed Khan, 25, who had learning difficulties growing up and mobility problems after a series of operations on his leg, has become independent after being given the chance to work.
“From being dependent on us, today Arsalan travels alone through bus and metro to Deira City Centre for work,” said Nafees Ahmed Khan, 56.
“The day he got his offer letter from Splash, he showed it to everyone he met, he was so excited.”
Indian expat Karan Bhatija, 26, (picture above right), who was born with hearing impairment in both ears, has been working with fashion retailer Splash in Dubai Mall since 2014. He said: “Before SNF and Splash, I was very anxious because, like everyone, I wanted to have a normal working life and make the family proud. When I landed this job it was a fantastic feeling.”
His brother, Mukesh, said: “We’d had to take extra care of Karan since he was young, it was a completely different journey back then and he always needed a guardian.”
Mukesh said when his brother came home with his first pay slip, he realised having a job had changed his sibling’s life.
“This was one of the proudest moments of my life,” he said. The Special Needs for Future Development was set up “to equip individuals with disabilities with the necessary knowledge and skills to enable them to realise their full potential, in a safe, secure, and stimulating environment, in order for them to lead fulfilling lives”, their website says. It also aims to increase public awareness of disabilities and to empower stakeholders in disability services with appropriate knowledge and skills in dealing with people with disabilities. “We believe that individuals with disabilities have the right for appropriate education and intervention,” reads a statement on the centre’s website. “They are to be treated as persons first before the diagnosis. “They are to be accorded the appropriate opportunities for growth and development. “The Future Centre is dedicated to the empowerment of individuals with disabilities, employing a systematic, structured and balanced approach resulting in the students' improved quality of life.” The Future Centre’s website also said that it envisions itself as a premier institution with standards of practice and service that are on par with the best international benchmarks.
INDEPENDENT: Karan, who is hearing impaired, said his life has changed since he secured a job