Help­ing in­di­vid­u­als lead ful­fill­ing lives

Cam­paigner says firms are more will­ing to hire

7 Days in Dubai - - NEWS - @Ma­hakLFC ma­hak@7days.ae

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

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