Rights of Persons with Special Needs in the UAE

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Staff Writer, TLR

Published on July 14, 2023, 17:41:00

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Rights of Persons with Special Needs in the UAE

In the year 2021, the world celebrates the 15th anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of Disabled Persons, the fastest human rights treaty negotiated by the United Nations. The United Arab Emirates, as a ratifier of the convention has taken numerous steps over the years, to put an end to education, institutional and attitudinal barriers for persons with special needs, and move towards a disabled-friendly society. The commencement of this change began with the Federal Law No.29 of 2006, which defines who exactly are persons with special needs and lays down specific policies to empower and assist them in leading a healthier and more comfortable life. This article aims to legally analyze the provisions of this law and look at other contemporary developments relating to the same.

Application

The opening provisions of the law, in Article 1 lay down the definition of who is considered as a handicapped person to be considered for the benefits under this law as “any person affected by incapacity or temporary or permanent total or partial dysfunction in one's physical, sensory, mental, interactive, educational or psychological capacities to such an extent that it decreases one's capacity to fulfil one's regular requirements as one's peers without handicap.” Under Article 2, the State guarantees protection and assistance of needs when it comes to social, economic, health, educational, vocational, cultural, promotional welfare, and services. The law strictly prohibits any deprivation of the rights of the disabled under Article 5, and also provides them with legal assistance under Article 6, in the case of restraint on their freedom. Moreover, the law moves beyond merely setting definitions and has an outlook towards the future stating that “competent authorities, shall establish centers, institutions and institutes for the care, training and rehabilitation of the handicapped”.

Rights of the Handicapped

Article 10 to 26 of the aforementioned law discuss the rights of the handicapped persons, laying down the following specific rights to assist and empower them, with the assistance of a legal framework and protection in law.

  1. Health and Rehabilitation Rights- Under Article 10, the State guarantees persons with special needs assistance for the maintenance of their health, at the expense of the State. All types of surgeries, resulting from the handicap or not, treatment from specialists and general practitioners, laboratory tests, varied rehabilitation treatments along with technical aids such as wheelchairs and prosthetic legs are also guaranteed. For further assistance and policy making, a “Specialized Committee for Health and Rehabilitation Services for Handicapped” has also been created under Article 11.
  2. Education Rights- Article 12 necessitates the formulation of an academic curriculum in braille or sign language or any other method needed, along with ensuring the right of admission of the handicapped in educational institutions without discrimination. Article 13 and 14 also provide for further research and actions to rehabilitate the handicapped with the help of scientific intervention.
  3. Work Rights- Article 16 guarantees that a person’s handicap should not be a hindrance for their job opportunities and their disability must be taken into account for during exams in order to establish their competence. Article 18 provides for affirmative action for the handicapped, in order to rehabilitate them back into society and guarantees representation in the Governmental and private sectors under a specific ratio, with other incidental details about their payment, leaves and bonuses.
  4. Public, Cultural and Sportive Life Rights- The provisions under Article 20 of this Federal Law are specifically empowering, as not only does this law look at necessities such as education and healthcare, but also ensures cultural and public rights, which are essential for an increased quality of life for all. It guarantees investment in the creative and mental facilities of the handicapped, providing of cultural material in braille and multimedia of other types, enablement of the handicapped through cultural activities like theatre and art, and the exemption for the payment of their fees. It also ensures the participation of handicapped persons in sporting activities at all levels.
  5. Fitted Environment Provisions- With the needs of the persons with special needs being so varied, open ended provisions such as Article 22 are specially accommodating and broad in their scope, providing for the rights of persons to a suitable environment. Article 23 provides for competent persons to determine the architectural standards to make establishments disabled friendly and prevent any harm to persons. Article 24 also permits the cabinet to determine the standard and rules for obtaining Government housing for the disabled persons. Most importantly, Article 25 states that all roads, public vehicles, and land, air and sea transportation means must meet the necessary technical specifications for the use and needs of the handicapped.

Exemptions

Apart from the guaranteeing of numerous rights to persons with special needs, the Federal Law also lists down certain exemptions for their welfare to ensure that their disability does not financially strain them and ensure that they are on an equal footing with the rest of the society. Article 27 and 28 provide for the exemption of parking fees and taxes meant for the vehicles of the handicapped, upon obtaining an impairment certificate by the ministry. Article 30 also determines associations and establishments be exempted from fees levied on building permits applications submitted for the erection of buildings destined to be used for the handicapped. Article 31 lays down the exemption from all legal and judicial fees for the cases filed by the handicapped under the provisions therein, and Article 32 exempts the handicapped from charges for any postal fees and charges for the purpose of correspondence.

Sanctions

Upon the formulation of any affirmative policy or law, it also becomes imperative for the State authorities to ensure that such special rights and provisions are not abused and exploited for personal gain. Therefore, the 33rd Article provides for a fine ranging from 1,000 to 5,000 dirhams on the usage of the handicapped card issued by the State, without any cause, apart from the civil cause of action that may arise. The sanctions shall also double upon repetition.

Conclusion

The disabled rights movements, which had its origins in the 1980’s has consistently called for not only prohibitions for discrimination against persons with special needs, which is a globally accepted principle in the 21st century, but also for special rights and affirmative actions to assist such persons. The Federal Law No.29 of 2006 takes this into account and with its provisions, aims to empower and grant special rights in the fields of education, work, healthcare, living environment, culture, and sports, to rehabilitate them into the society and ensure they are on an equal pedestal to access Government resources and opportunities. The exemptions laid down in the law will also go a long way in ensuring that upon the denial of their legal rights, the persons do not feel hesitant approaching the courts with a fear of exorbitant legal fees. The law, laid way in 2006 set a framework for further action by the Government to assist the person with special needs and ensure their successful reintegration into society, and subsequent action plans and strategies laid down by the ministries set up under the said law are testament to the widespread positive effects and enhanced consideration for the rights of the disabled person.

 

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