Dubai

See Sharon’s interview: http://www.eturbonews.com/6699/tourism-all
Read SATH’s OPEN WORLD MAGAZINE Dubai article: http://sath.org/page/Dubai_A_Visit_to_The_Disability_Centers/2283/746/

Photos courtesy of Denise DeShetler

An update from my long-time friend Denise DeShetler who recently visited the UAE and has some exciting updates to share. Some pictures above she shares with us.
Denise says: I am back from my trip and I had such a wonderful time. I was able to explore Abu Dhabi and Dubai in a tourist and a local’s perspective. Quite an interesting experience.
Also, I was able to go to Al Thiqah Club For Handicapped, it is located in Sharja just outside of Dubai. I met with the Executive Director, Ahmed Salem H Al Madhloum. He was so hospitable. Toured myself and my friend Thamer around the whole facility and told us all about the services being offered. I have to say, I was Highly Impressed!!! In 2011 a lot of good things are going on!
I learned the following
-The facility opened in 1987 and is now the largest Disability center in the Middle East and the only one with a pool.
-Sporting Services are for both Paralympics & Special Olympics
-Transportation is provided in the vicinity of the facility
-Every member that needs one, gets a FREE wheelchair
-Even non members can go there and get FREE maintenance on their wheelchairs
-Besides sporting activities, there are others services provided such as a library/computer lab, arts & crafts, haircuts/grooming, delicious meals, prayer rooms and Rehab with Massage & Physical Therapists.
-Programs that educate the public through Community Outings and services & events that bring school children and govt employees to the facility.
-They are in the midst of constructing a Women’s Building, at the moment they are using a small section for female athletes until that building is complete.
Needless to say, for a muslim country in the middle east, I was highly impressed. Ahmed Salem H Al Madhloum was a genuine man and I was pleased to see all of his and the facility’s intentions and potential for being such a model center for the middle east. Quite exciting.
Also, I noticed throughout the city of Dubai that there were proper curb cuts. Plus I saw several people in wheelchairs out and about roaming the city.
They have a website but most is written in Arabic so you would have to translate the text to English – www.althiqahclub.ae

The IWAS (International Wheelchair and Amputee Federation) World Championship 2011 will host world amputee games in Sharjah, UAE. Competitions will include:
Athletics
Badminton
Power Lifting
Race Running
Shooting
Swimming
Table Tennis
Amputee Football
Sitting Volleyball
Wheelchair Rugby

Thanks, Denise. I can’t wait to hear more from your next trip to Dubai. Also, I’ve just learned my nephew, Keen is going there on vacation! Pics please?

Sharon’s Trip to Dubai:
The article below appeared in OPEN WORLD Magazine. SATH and the UAE Department of Tourism sponsored the trip.

http://www.sath.org/index.php?sec=746&id=2283

DUBAI A VISIT TO THE DISABILITY CENTERS

—Sharon Myers, Chair SATH-Sports and Adventure Travel Committee; SATH-Adaptive Equipment Committee

“If one hurts, we all hurt” was the sentiment heard again and again as the kind people of Dubai welcomed me into their oasis, a realm of beauty in which culture and technology are cemented together in a multi-national society.

After learning that Dubai had hosted a world-class competition for weight lifters with disabilities, as a retired Paralympian I was anxious to see the facilities. What I saw and experienced in this far away place in the Middle East was much different than I had imagined. There are three separate clubs in the Emirates built to bring together the disabled and pro-vide opportunities for sport, work, equipment, services, scholarships, and marriage. Time did not permit me to visit the Al Ain Handicapped Club.

Norma Eslim, manager of Dubai Handicapped Club, was eager to show us around this most impressive facility. As I rolled into a huge gym with many types of wheelchairs lined up along the entire length of the gym, ready for the players to return that night for practice, memories filled my head—sounds of players chatting, cheers from excited spectators, the smell of rubber burning as wheels came to abrupt stops and whistles blowing to signal fouls.

These clubs are sponsored by government and private donations. I remembered all the different fund raising events we’d had in our home gym. I immediately thought about such a fundraiser where able-bodied VIP’s would use wheelchairs with possibly a game featuring the Ruler of Dubai, HH Sheikh Maktoum bin Rashid Al Maktoum, and his Federal Supreme Council Wheelers versus Peter Streng and his DTCM Chairioteers! After hearing about all of the good deeds and support of their Ruler, this surely would raise a lot of money and educate the public about the abilities of people with disabilities. It also would encourage more citizens with disabilities to participate. And, what a way to show off to the rest of the world via the media a part of the Arab Region far different from that which is depicted on our local news stations.

The sports facilities, specifically designed to be wheelchair friendly, were the best I’d seen anywhere in the world, including America. There were accessible accommodations to house the guest and home teams. I counted over thirty exercise machines in one room! Small, modern buses had been adapted with lifts and tie-downs for wheelchairs. Although membership is only open to men, a separate facility for women is presently under construction. A picture I have of a medal presentation with a female competitor from the Middle East wearing the Gold beside me, wearing the Silver, is a reminder of their fierce competitive spirit.

Through friends in the International Wheelchair Basketball Federation, I was introduced by e-mail to Majid Al Usaimi, manager of the Al-Thiqah Club for Handicapped, located in Sharjah, next door to Dubai. There are over three hundred male members with disabilities. The Club boasts accessible saunas, hot tubs, exercise rooms, billiard tables, huge indoor and outdoor basketball courts, tennis courts and a well-lit track and field area that serves as the training facility for local athletes who have brought home gold and silver from international meets. Most impressive was the indoor Olympic size swimming pool complete with ramps and lifts. Majid, an international table tennis champion, and I enjoyed a match, but his fast serves were more than this rusty player could handle.

Sharjah is also home to the Emirates Society for the Rehabilitation of the Blind. The third largest of the Emirates, Sharjah is a blend of the old and new, where East and West meet in a magical confluence. Modern hotels jostle for space with quaint mosques and department stores vie with traditional souks. The Society, set in an unpretentious building, has over 100 male and female members. Established in 1983, it strives to incorporate the latest technology for the blind, and the special Braille printer is a definite asset. There is a well-stocked library with shelves full of cassettes instead of printed books with the Holy Quran as one of the few texts in Braille. The Society also sponsors a national Goal Ball team, so here, too, sports are on the agenda.

While in Shar-jah I also visited the Handicapped Guardians Association, founded in 1996 by families whose children or other relatives have disabilities. Considered to be the first such national association in the Gulf countries, its goals include providing social and psychological support to parents and guardians, services for special needs children, and employment and advocacy for people with disabilities. Here I made a special connection with Board Member Kaltham Obaid Bakheet, also a wheelchair user.

On another busy day in Dubai, I stopped by the Dubai Center for Special Needs, a humanitarian organization which provides high quality services to children with developmental disabilities. Built in 1994, the center is unique in the Emirates for providing a holistic, multi-disciplinary approach to special education with each child receiving a program designed to meet his or her particular needs. Again, a more modern or better-staffed facility could not be imagined anywhere in the world.

Not only are the needs of citizens with disabilities being well served in Dubai, but also those of visitors. The shower bench in our hotel, the Hilton Jumeirah Beach, was not adequate. In search of a better bench, Peter took me to the very modern Arabian Home Health Center, which sells adaptive equipment, wheelchairs and virtually anything else you might need. They also rent scooters. Two benches were then purchased for the hotel’s two adapted rooms with roll-in showers by a most accommodating hotel manager. Now that’s service!

Finally, I want to call attention to a very important upcoming event, Rehab Dubai 2003, which will be held March 25-27 at the Dubai International Exhibition Centre. Over 5000 delegates from nearly 40 countries attended the previous event in 2000. You can find full details on their website: www.rehab-dubai.com.

A dedicated member of the Rehab Dubai Organizing Committee, Iqbal Siddiqui, kindly accompanied us on a cruise on the Creek one evening. His insights into disability issues in the Arab world, where there are estimated to be 10 million people with severe disabilities, were so fascinating that I’m afraid we missed most of the scenery! We thank him and all of our hosts in Dubai for taking the time to show us what this wonderful country has achieved for both residents and visitors with disabilities. I know I speak for Laurel as well when I say that your smiles remain in our hearts.

To learn more about visiting Dubai, contact:

The Philadelphia Office of The Govt. of Dubai Dept. of Tourism and Commerce Marketing at             (215) 751-9750 . Web: http://www.sath.org/index.php?sec=746&id=2283

eTurboNews | Dec 11, 2008 http://www.eturbonews.com/6699/tourism-all

“When four-time Paralympian and world traveler Sharon Myers entered her handicap-accessible suite in Dubai’s world-renowned Burj Jumeriah Hotel on a visit four years ago, she was amazed. It was the most luxurious room she had ever seen. Myers had no problems accessing the suite’s second floor on the elevator, no difficulty getting through the widened doors, and the bathroom’s roll-in shower, she says, was not only fully accessible, but it was absolutely gorgeous – covered in blue and turquoise tiles – the most elegant she had ever seen.

There was just one hitch – there was no bench in the shower, a must-have for any fully wheelchair accessible bathroom. And while Myers was able to travel between major sights and attractions, the windows of the van she was transported in were far too low for someone seated in a wheelchair to see out of, preventing her from viewing the skyline and the buzzing city around her.

These glitches may have been minor, but they occurred in one of the few destinations in the Middle East actively seeking to attract this growing segment of the tourism market – a regional “frontrunner” in terms of accessibility.” See the complete story at: http://www.eturbonews.com/6699/tourism-all

With disabled or special needs individuals representing one out of every 10 people, the purchase power of this population can make billions of dollars of difference in the tourism market.

Burg Al Arab Hotel

The sail façade represents an astonishing technical challenge, featuring a double-skinned Teflon-coated woven glass fiber screen. It is the first time such technology has been used vertically in such form and extent in any building worldwide. Noted as the world’s tallest hotel building, the Burg is dazzling white by day and used as a canvas for a rainbow of spectacular light displays at night. In the shape of an Arabian dhow sail and dominating the Dubai coastline, this is one of the world ‘s most spectacular and luxurious hotels. Burj Al Arab stands proudly on a man-made island some 280 meters offshore, linked to the mainland by a slender, gently curving causeway.” Read the entire story:

This picture was taken from the reflection in the mirror over the bed.
All bedrooms are on the second floor. This adapted room had its own private elevator!

This was the most lavish roll-in shower I’ve ever seen. All fixtures were gold plated, of course!  But, there was one item missing–the shower bench!

Al-Thiqah Club for Handicapped

This was one of the several state of the art equipped buses. Notice the marked pathway and cut curb.
Accessible van

Through friends in the International Wheelchair Basketball Federation, I was introduced by e-mail to Majid Al Usaimi, manager of the Al-Thiqah Club for Handicapped, located in Sharjah, next door to Dubai. There are over three hundred male members with disabilities. The Club boasts accessible saunas, hot tubs, exercise rooms, (I counted 32 exercise machines), billiard tables, huge indoor and outdoor basketball courts, tennis courts and a well-lit track and field area that serves as the training facility for local athletes who have brought home gold and silver from international This facility also has on sight sleeping accommodations for traveling teams. Most impressive was the indoor Olympic size swimming pool complete with ramps and lifts and roll-in showers. Majid, an international table tennis champion, and I enjoyed a match, but his fast serves were more than this rusty player could handle.

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