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Progams in the Works for People with Special Needs

Kingdom Approves UN Convention on Rights of Special Needs People
Nuha Adlan, Arab News

RIYADH, 3 June 2008 — Social workers, officials and special needs people alike welcomed the government’s recent decision to adopt the first international convention on the rights of persons with disabilities.

Following instructions from Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah and recommendations of the Shoura Council, the Saudi Cabinet last week decided to adopt the International Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

The convention, which is to be signed in the near future, will result in the Kingdom abiding by all of its articles. Prior to giving its approval, the Council of Ministers thoroughly studied the Shoura Council’s decision in this regard last January.

The convention was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on Dec. 13, 2006, and was opened for signature and ratification on March 30, 2007.

The 50-article convention asserts the rights to education, health, work, adequate living conditions, freedom of movement, freedom from exploitation and equal recognition before the law for persons with disabilities. It also addresses the need for persons with disabilities to have access to public transport, buildings and other facilities and recognizes their capacity to make decisions for themselves.

Dr. Naser Al-Mousa, educational consultant for educational services at the Ministry of Education, who is also disabled, believes the convention will better the plight of disabled people in Saudi Arabia. “The Council of Ministers’ approval is a good step. … Signing the convention and joining other countries will hopefully be the next step,” he said.

“The articles of the convention are comprehensive and tackle every matter in their life… I am so happy about adopting the convention. I am eager to see the implementation of Article 24, which deals with education. We will fight hard to apply it,” Al-Mousa added.

Omar Al-Abdan, 30, is unemployed and uses a wheelchair. He told Arab News that he was thrilled by the news.

He added that he has been unable to find a job, as he was unable to find a working environment that accommodates his needs. “I am really happy to know about this, especially since there are many articles that talk about employment and education,” he added.

“To begin with, the idea of giving support to people with disabilities is originally derived from Islam, which has always urged people to support and cooperate with those who need help,”Al-Abdan said. “I wonder if I will be able to work in a place that suits my disability.”

Despite all the promises of a better tomorrow, some disabled people are concerned that they would not be able to enjoy the rights listed in the convention.

Muhammad Al-Qasim, a 20-year-old wheelchair user, said he was disappointed by the current situation faced by disabled people and did not see any hope in the future. “I think the problem cannot be solved by signing an agreement. The real problem lies in the minds of people who underestimate the disabled,” he said.

“I do not want to jump to conclusions. Who can guarantee me that the agreement will make my life better?” he asked. “I know that the government is doing a tremendous effort to support us. However, people have a preconception that disabled people are incapable… If anyone is able to change an attitude then I am up for change,” he added.

Integration of the disabled in the social and educational life has been among the Kingdom’s main priorities for the past 15 years.

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