Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

A Handicapped Individual or a Handicapped Society? | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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This article is inspired by a promising project headed by a 17-yeat old young woman named Bayan Sami Nasr. A student in her final year of high school at Dar al Fikr in Jeddah, Bayan based her project on the need to incorporate people with special needs into mainstream society and provide them with suitable work opportunities.

“Helping those with special needs is a humane duty we all need to perform in order to save them from three basic predicaments: the lack of participation in social development, inability to achieve self-fulfillment and the danger of being manipulated to carry out illegal transactions, such as drug-dealing.”

The project, she adds, “is based on researching major corporations in order to find suitable job opportunities for those with special needs, such as the deaf and mute. I selected the “House of Doughnuts” franchise, which agreed to sponsor the idea. The selection was based on the fact that customers could order their food by pointing to option on the menu. A lengthy conversation is not necessary.”

At first, Bayan met with individuals who expressed a willingness to work in this type of business. Six candidates were selected to pioneer the project. “It is extremely important for the group to join a line of work where they could communicate with others, as opposed to an isolated factory with little or now interaction with others.”

Bayan fears that mainstream society would refuse to deal with people with special needs, especially after watching a program on Abu Dhabi TV. When asked whether they agreed to have individuals with special needs work in public places, 53% of those who took part in the survey rejected the idea. Refusing to be discouraged by such figures, the 17-year-old referred to the experience of a chain of restaurants in Egypt that had employed deaf and mute workers for 12 years without reporting any problems.

Bayan called on Saudi businessmen to support her project and help those with special needs find jobs in order to eliminate any social stigma. Despite representing 13% of Saudi Arabia’s population, no study has been conducted focusing on the needs and problems facing this group.

The importance of the 17-year-old’s project, selected as her graduation assignment, reflects her humanity. It is also proof that, if schools follow their true role and develop the awareness of their students, are able to produce good and productive individuals. Bayan and her educational establishment should be acknowledged for their activities.

On a final note, disabilities should not be considered an obstacle to self-development and personal growth. The real impediment is a society, which does not allow them to prosper.