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Friday, May 18, 2007

Disability in Qatar

With a historical emphasis on marrying within the family in Qatar, disability was always going to be high. The people in Qatar don't help themselves by eating huge quantities of sugar and fast food. Unlike in the past, when life was hard, they don't make up for it with hard physical labour either.

Servants do all the house work, and expats do all hard and unpleasant physical work. For some Qataris, the only exercise is the act of staggering between house and the waiting land cruiser. Consequently, some middle aged Qataris have difficulty walking. Diabetes is high, striking many people while they are still young.

While Qatar's population does not have quite the awareness of disability that many Western countries have, the Government has made an effort. There are ramps and disabled toilets in most public places now, and disabled parking is common - and, even more surprisingly for someone used to driving on Qatar's chaotic roads, respected.

If you’re like us, you’ll also have been getting messages asking you to cooperate or thanking you for cooperating with the disability survey for the past couple of weeks. (We actually had a representative from the survey come round a couple of months beforehand). This is a nationwide survey to find out just how much disability there is in Qatar.

Qatar has also just hosted the second Annual International forum on Human Needs. The forum was held at the Shafallah centre, a school for disabled children. A film has also been made about the one of the centre's students, focusing on his eventually successful struggle to become a policeman.

There has been recent attention in the media too, with The Gulf times focusing on the motivational story of a blind Qatari man who obtained a doctorate, and now works for the Qatar government as a sociologist.

However, awareness among the ordinary people of Qatar seems to be low, and I have yet to see one disabled scooter being used in the country.

The Government stated aims include providing special facilities in public places, enabling disabled people to work and allowing them to take part in decisions concerning them. What remains to be seen is whether the government can move beyond these surveys and aims, and take real action to help disabled people. There’s reason to be positive. Despite the mind numbing bureaucracy that you encounter here, the Government is active and progressive.

However, the real causes of much of the disability is unlikely to be removed. Banning marriages between cousins would cause an outcry, and as for removing the country’s fast food joints – fat chance!

Also see: Healthcare in Qatar

Scooters Direct UK - exporting scooters to the Middle East.

Mobility Aids - mobility products available on line.