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New law on way to protect rights of people with special needs

posted on 08/03/2006: 865 views

UAE's first law guaranteeing the rights of people with special needs will likely come into effect by July, according to a top official at the Ministry of Social Affairs. Hussain Saeed Al Shaikh, social affairs consultant at the Ministry of Social Affairs and one of the officials involved in drafting the law, said conditions were favourable for the ratification of the law.

"It will not take more than four months because we feel that (everyone is) encouraged to adopt the law and pass it," he told reporters after speaking at the Arab Children's Health Congress. Top officials at the ministry told Gulf News that the draft law has been approved by the Ministry of Justice and the technical committee. The ministerial committee, the third in a seven-step legislative process, received the draft on Monday and is now considering it.

After the committee approves the draft, it will go to the Cabinet, then the Federal National Council and the Supreme Council before reaching the President's desk for ratification. If passed, it would be the culmination of a process spanning about two years. Officials finished the draft in 2004, which then saw several provisions dropped and later added.

"If this law is approved many laws will be changed to match, in the Ministry of Health, Education, and Justice for instance. The laws are involved with already existing laws, so it took time for each ministry to agree," Mariam Mohammad Khalfan Al Roumi, Minister of Social Affairs said.

She said the law will be "comprehensive" and match international standards. Provisions contained within the draft law include guaranteeing a job quota for people with special needs in the public and private sectors, increasing accessibility to public buildings and residences and integrating people with special needs into public and private schools.

The draft law also provides for retirement considerations, allowing people with special needs to retire with full benefits earlier than their normal counterparts. Penalties for non-compliance with the law have also been included in the draft, which will be financial, according to Al Shaikh. There are currently 32 centres for 3,229 children with different special needs. No exact numbers on the children or their disabilities will be available until the results of the 2005 UAE census are out. Media reports, however, put the figure at around 5,500 people. (Gulf News)


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