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32 disabled given a chance to live a normal life… by a private company

The initiative to offer the disabled jobs in the private sector is the first of its kind in the country. (Patrick Castillo)

By Maryam Alyammahi

A total of 32 disabled people were given a chance to live a normal life and were integrated in the society by a private company in Dubai.

Majority of them are intellectually disabled, and the rest vary from Down Syndrome to hearing impairment and other disabilities.

This initiative to offer the disabled jobs in the private sector was the first of its kind in the country and was launched by Desert Group.

Speaking to Emirates 24|7, Reem Al Ghaith, Corporate Social Responsibility Manager at Desert Group, said the programme was launched in 2006 with the aim to hire disabled people and train them to work in the agriculture industry.

“The initiative started off with only nine disabled employees, and it increased year after year, and today, we have a total of 32 disable employees. And 28 of them are intellectually disabled of which 11 have Down Syndrome but they work with great abilities in the agricultural filed. The rest four are having hearing impairment and they work as typists for all sorts of governmental applications.”

She pointed out that the programme targets to create a generation of gardeners that can work in parks, nurseries and landscaping companies.

“Their monthly salaries ranges from Dh4,200 to Dh4,500 and it is a way to encourage them to work better and highlights the importance of hardworking,” she added.

“The award winning programme was a learning experience for us as well as there were no existing model that we can benchmark it with. It grew and developed throughout the years by a sound vision, a strategic plan, and a dedicated hired team of credited psychological therapists,” she said, adding that “It is very difficult for the disabled people to get a job. So what we are doing here is teach them the basic skills that can aid a full inclusion scheme, besides, this environment is considered to be a healing environment for the special needs people,” she said.

She pointed out that their working plan includes all chores relating to the nurseries operation starting from potting soil to blocking, product shelving, weeding plants and preparing sales orders. The programme’s components are presented on the infrastructure provided by qualified special therapists, dedicated facilities and a well-planned rehabilitation work inclusion programme that aims at driving behaviour, developing skills and facilitating productivity.

“Our programme works as a group system, production level is evaluated through working groups that varies upon the complexity level of skills, so we have two working groups, the first is (potting soil), and the other one is ( graduation level),”said Al Ghaith.

The (Potting soil) group is the most basic level with repetitive tasks and the highest working group (graduation level) is the sales group where the employee has reached a level of confidence to talk to walk-in customers, guide them towards the products requested and provides them with the required info such as price.

“Every project has difficulties, ours was the response level of the employees, parents’ orientation on how to support their sons in being more motivated and ready,” she added.

In addition, knowing what is the health and safety risks that should be considered and prevented, so there was a partnership with the medical center and Dubai Civil Defense to conduct trainings for the team in addition to internal first aid training sessions.

“In general we are confident to state that all are in a much higher level of positive behavioral scheme and obtained higher level of professional skills that fit the required output,” added Al Ghaith.