Dubai, UAE: An advocacy group has helped to build more than 500 ramps in Dubai for people in wheelchairs, the elderly and parents with strollers.
Wings Of Angelz built 551 ramps across the emirate after monthly meetings with volunteers to identify roads, pavements, neighbourhoods and schools where accessibility was lacking.
Volunteers then follow up with managers of stores, restaurants, buildings and malls or with Dubai’s Roads and Transport Authority until ramps were built.
“It does feel very good that we have crossed the 500 mark but a lot more needs to be done,” said Shobhika Kalra, the group’s founder, who launched the initiative two years ago.
Ms Kalra has Friedreich’s ataxia, a rare disorder impairing muscle coordination.
She uses a wheelchair to navigate sidewalks and roads during her travel from her home in Rashidiya to the metro station and from there to Deira, where she works as an administrative assistant.
“We must constantly follow up to be sure that access that is promised has been created,” Ms Kalra said.
“People have got in touch with us on Facebook, Twitter and on email to point out places that needed slopes. There were stores and pharmacies near my own home that needed ramps.”
About 130 ramps have been built by Aster Pharmacy group for better access to its stores.
“Healthcare must be accessible to all,” said Oommen Philip, Aster Pharmacy’s senior manager. “It’s not just about installing a ramp because the person can go in. The person must be able to easily move around inside the store.
“Shobhika and her team are inspirational. She also gave us suggestions for new pharmacies to make it easier to reach products.
“The rule is for Dubai but we are making sure ramps and access are expanded to other emirates.”
Experts say that by considering accessibility in an initial design, the building cost increase is less than 1 per cent.
People with disabilities should test ramps to ensure that the inclines are not too steep and that hand rails are provided. Volunteers have asked for changes when ramps in some buildings were found to be unusable.
“People are becoming aware but they need to see it from the perspective of a person with disabilities,” said Reuben Samuel, a volunteer who works in a trading company.
“From a business perspective, stores should understand that when companies cater to the needs of people with disabilities, it opens up a whole new market.
“They will frequent stores and choose products based on the fact that you have catered to them.”
Volunteers can meet at the next Ramp Day on November 11 at 5pm in Zabeel Park outside Gate 3. Details are on the Ramp Day or WingsOfAngelz Facebook pages.
© The NationalNov 2016