Ensure Accessibility

I spent most of my last day in Jeddah hanging out with my friend Ibrahim in the old part of the city, aka al-balad. We finished our tour by taking pictures of one of Jeddah’s gates. Later that night we went to Lenuo’s for dinner. While enjoying our pizza, we noticed a group of guys at the restaurant door helping their friend who was on a wheelchair to enter the place.

Though it only took a moment, the brief incident got me and Ibrahim to talk about accessibility for people with special needs and the lack of laws that ensure they can easily get properly served in government buildings as well as those of private businesses. Officials here seem to always talk about how they care about disabled people, but such talk is rarely accompanied by actions. The US has something called the Americans with Disabilities Act, and I have always thought that we need something like that.

So, it was with much delight that I read this piece of news from Arab News on plans to make buildings in the country more disabled-friendly. I really hope that these plans will be put into action very soon.

11 thoughts on “Ensure Accessibility

  1. Accessibility for people with disabilities is still relatively new in the US, so one cannot condemn the Saudis for being a little behind the times here.

  2. I have actually been pleasantly surprised by the awareness and acceptance here in Kuwait for people with special needs.

    I agree that the Americans with Disabilities Act is something that all countries should aspire to. Having lived in the US, and then moving to Northern Europe for grad school, I was actually surprised that even Europe was so unaccessible for people in wheelchairs. It gave me a new appreciation for the steps the US has taken, which I had never given a second thought to before.

  3. The Arab News article is great news for Saudi.

    Accessibilty in Canada is protected by the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. All buildings must be wheelchair accessible, and those with public washrooms must have wheel chair accessible cubicles. This has been in force since the mid 80’s to 90’s.

    Parking lots have parking spaces near the entrance reserved for the “handicapped” or disabled marked by a wheel chair pictogram on the asphalt, and signs. Only those with a physician authorized handicapped permit to be displayed in their cars may use them. The definition is relatively broad, including people like my Dad whose Parkinson’s and arthritis make it hard for him to walk distances easily, people who are normally well but hampered by recent surgery (temporary permit), and of course the permanently disabled for whatever reason. Street parking rules are relaxed for the same permit holders.

    The plans for education and employment in Saudi are especially good ones. Human rights laws in Canada prevent educational or employment discrimination of the disabled. It still happens of course, but less so.

  4. Hello Ahmad,

    Thanks for the article.

    I don’t know about the US, I only remember the storm of criticism few months ago when Barack Obama mistakenly described his weak basketball skills as if he is in special Olympics. it was stupid mistake, he had to apologize even before it has been on TV.

    In the UK, they pay much attention to them, most buildings I saw provided with special entrances, lifts, bathrooms, etc,

    a lot of tube stations are ready to make their life easier, while buses lean down on one side if disabled person come on wheelchair or even an older person is joining.

    The work places are really taking care of them, in our case, they hire cars to take them to and from office.

    For example, the media organization I work for designed its website for people with sight difficulties to listen to the content and the description of the pictures, as the caption will read loudly for them.

    (We add the normal caption to read, and another description that not visible on the site, but a special software recognize it and read it for disabled people)

    Many other stuff, you can see them every where.

  5. by the way, in UK, the prime minister considered a disabled person, as he lost one eye, while the leader of the Tory party, the opposition leader is famously fathered a disabled child (until the kid has died few months ago)

    So both of them are very much support for disabled rights.

  6. Ahmed,

    An excellent idea, I must say!

    It would be far better if the religious police harassed establishments that do not serve our disabled.

    Moreover, they could view such harassment on behalf of the disabled to be fully in accord with the teachings of the Rasulullah and thus our religion.

    Indeed, such a law as you suggest could easily be viewed as a religious obligation.

  7. i agree with andrew.. i wish we had actively enforced laws that looked after our weak out here in israel as well..

    went to a lecture for interior architects a few weeks ago held by one of our most prestigious universities and two of the students were doing a shop project based exclusively around stages and stairs.. i drilled the teachers as to how they were encouraging such a thing.. in a society with so many people who are disabled from car accidents and war – how is it that we arent teaching people to instill tolerance and consideration into our very buildings.. she didnt seem to care.. i didnt enrol..

  8. Interesting view point here:

    Penn & Teller: Americans w/ Disabilities Act (highlights)

    This is a disabled man who does not like the ADA.


  9. It was only a few years ago that buildings in the UK were adapted for wheelchair users. The total cost of all those ramps must have been enormous. So SA is not very far behind, if they start building the ramps now (as they should).

  10. While accommodations need to be made for the disabled, I hope the Saudi gov’t can do a somewhat better job than did the US. The US laws are a little too broad, inviting abuse as cited here.

    In fact, you might enjoy (if you like black humor) reading about more of those abuses.

    Good idea, but poorly written into laws.

  11. Here in Oman there are a wide range of disabled facilities, car parking, ramps, public buses. However its public opinion that needs changing – and more planning incorporation.

    Its quite normal for non-disabled drivers to rak in disabled parking places . Most buildings are still being built with only steps up to the main entrance. Pavements (sidewalks) are not ramped where they cross a road. Many in-town roads do not even have a pavement – forcing any person not in a vehicle to dice with death (how horrible for a disabled person as they cant jump away from traffic.

    I agree that ‘the west’ has its faults in many of these respects but that dosnt mean that ‘The Gulf’ needs ‘the west’them to fix their issues before sorting those in ‘The Gulf’.

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