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‘Blindness is when hope is gone... not vision'
Published in The Saudi Gazette on 01 - 09 - 2013

JEDDAH – Members of the society need to learn to accept people with disabilities. Once they begin to be accepted and have people believing in them, people can come together and the world will be a better place, the CEO of a Saudi blind business company advocating employment for persons with disabilities (PWD) underscored.
In an interview with the Saudi Gazette, Abdul Razaq Ali Al Turki, CEO of Nesma Security, and Managing Director of NAMMA Cargo Services, said “we are all humans at the end of the day, we all come from the same planet.”
“I do not claim that I am a disabled person in order to get help or sympathy. You will see me cross a field with power. Blindness is not when the vision is impaired, but it is when the hope is gone,” Al Turki noted, emphasizing that “I am a businessman and I can proudly say that I have not faced any business challenge. I have a talking calculator, a computer and I follow twitter and facebook.”
Asked about his advice to stakeholders, parents, educators and caregivers on the issue of PWDs, he said “I have one piece of advice for those who live with a disability – do not be ashamed of your disability. Do not cover it. It is a test from God. Get involved in society, volunteer, strive to study and achieve a higher education. Someone with autism can achieve a PhD with the right support, it's been done before so be optimistic and learn.”
How does he overcome the difficulties that come his way being a disabled member of society?
To this he has a stark observation, saying “members of the society in the Arab world perceive people with disabilities as incapable and that is the biggest difficulty we face.”
And to substantiate his claim, he narrated an incident when he was abroad one time.

“In London, I am able to walk around alone with the ability of feeling everything. The Western world has many facilities that have been standardized to suit the needs of people with disabilities such as the height of the curb and the size of the pedestrian pavement whereas sadly we don't have the same in the Arab world. I attempted to introduce these standards to the Arab world, however it was a challenge to have it implemented.”
He further said traffic enforcements in the US and Europe are generally strictly followed by the public. However, in the Arab world they are not, “therefore I feel that as a person with a disability, I cannot walk around in comfort.”
He also pointed to the services available in airports. Again, in the Western world, he said, “the quality of treatment I receive as a person with a disability is incredibly professional whereas in the Arab world, I feel that the staff is not as well trained or prepared to deal with people with disabilities.”
How about job opportunities for people that are blind in Saudi Arabia?
Al Turki said “I feel that in Saudi Arabia, people with disabilities are restricted to specific roles such as teaching or religious related roles. There are three key things that a person with a disability needs in order to perform their job – confidence in themselves, the necessary equipment to carry out their tasks and the training they require to develop professionally.”
Yet his perception of lack of support might be based on insufficient awareness in the average working environment in order to support people with disabilities. However, he said “I do not feel that there is enough awareness and I think that the media is to blame. For example, Arab films do not portray people with disabilities in a realistic light. This lack of expression within the media means that society has a distorted view of what the life of a person with disabilities is like.”
Commenting on the upcoming “ABILITIESme” forum slated in Abu Dhabi, and as to whether it will really raise awareness of empowering people with disabilities, he said “I think ABILITIESme will definitely contribute to empowering people with disabilities. They involve the media and showcase what people with disabilities are capable of and their achievements. I hope everyone recognizes this conference as I think it is an important stepping stone for people with disabilities to present who they are. It has a great positive energy, and hopefully at the end of it, people with disabilities will feel empowered and have confidence within themselves.”
The year 1981 was proclaimed the International Year of Disabled Persons (IYDP) by the United Nations. It called for a plan of action with an emphasis on equalization of opportunities, rehabilitation and prevention of disabilities. The slogan of IYDP was “a wheelchair in every home”, defined as the right of persons with disabilities to take part fully in the life and development of their societies, enjoy living conditions equal to those of other citizens, and have an equal share in improved conditions resulting from socio-economic development.
A major outcome of the International Year of Disabled Persons was the formulation of the World Program of Action Concerning Disabled Persons adopted by the UN General Assembly in December 1982. This also is recognized by the Preamble of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which states: “Recognizing the importance of the principles and policy guidelines contained in the World Program of Action concerning Disabled Persons and in the Standard Rules on the Equalization of Opportunities for Persons with Disabilities in influencing the promotion, formulation and evaluation of the policies, plans, programs and actions at the national, regional and international levels to further equalize opportunities for persons with disabilities.”
December 3 each year, since 1998, is identified by the United Nations as the International Day of Persons with Disabilities. — SG

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