At is a pity that most of us treat people with disability as sick” or “incompetent” and never acknowledge that they can contribute positively if they are given a chance.
At workplaces in Oman, the disabled never get to prove themselves as they face hurdles all the way. Many offices don’t have ramps for people on wheelchair or even toilets with disability amenities. Employers are oblivious of their basic rights and needs. The blind and the deaf are hit most and so are people with speech impairment.
Corporate managers do not understand the fact that the disabled people, with all severity, can work fine with their colleagues, as long as they get the support they need. But what lets the disabled people down in the Sultanate are the various organisations that are supposedly looking after their rights.
They do not represent them properly and people with disability are left at their own devices to defend themselves. They don’t get the right help to fight discrimination in their offices.
The other factor that lets them down is the absence of reliable statistics. For example, we don’t know how many people suffer from what disability and what is their age group. It is important to know their education background and what kind of support they need. These important statistics will help make important adjustments to serve the disabled people better.
Sketchy figures from hospitals indicate that out of every five children, one is born with a disability of some form or the other. But no one is bothered to go into a more comprehensive investigation to find out the true figure.
Some disabilities take time to be dictated. It would take several years for the newborn babies to find out the kind of disability they have. For dyslexics, the problem can only be dictated when a child starts going to school. There are not enough schools to handle this problem.
Essential organisations and their networks should be linked to share the information of the disabled. This way, problem can be tracked from an early stage to help plan the future of the disabled people.
At the moment, there are no laws for employers to follow the rights of their disabled workers. Worse, the disabled staff themselves don’t know if there are such laws.
The labour court sometimes gets caught when a disabled person’s contract gets terminated without a good reason. This is because employers look for loopholes to get rid of their disabled workers. There are many examples when employees meet with an accident or through sudden illnesses that leave them with a permanent disability. Employers use it to their advantage and unfairly terminate their contracts.
It is not the fault of a perfectly healthy worker to meet with an accident that leave them with a partial disability. They can still work, maybe in limited capacity, but most of the employers would not make the right adjustments to fit the new working conditions of the worker.
Their insensitive and lack of regard must be addressed by the authorities. Such employers must not get away with it. A proper campaign is needed to promote the welfare of the disabled people who are still looking for work. Some people have the attitude that “if you are disabled then you are stupid” and not good enough to work. But it may take a long time to change “attitudes” towards disability.
When you go to the lower rung of the disability ladder, the autistic and Down Syndrome sufferers stand no chance at all. Their future is completely out of the radar of all social spheres.
Saleh Al Shaibany