The disabled are qualified to work and are willing to serve their society [Archives:2007/1082/Reportage]

September 3 2007
A blind student sings the national anthem with a belief she will be an active member in the future.
A blind student sings the national anthem with a belief she will be an active member in the future.
The integration of blind individuals is a key goal of  AlAman Association.
The integration of blind individuals is a key goal of AlAman Association.
When the facilities are available , teaching methods will be easier for the blind students.
When the facilities are available , teaching methods will be easier for the blind students.
A flower gives a ray of hope to those that are blind.
A flower gives a ray of hope to those that are blind.
Ramzia uses the brail machine to prepare and type the lessons that she uses for her lessons
Ramzia uses the brail machine to prepare and type the lessons that she uses for her lessons
Fatima Al-Ajel
[email protected]

In society, there are many stories about successful handicapped men and women. Subsequently, many of whom have indeed graduated from the university and have become active members in their society. Some examples are cited below.

Fawzia Rasam and Rasmia Rasam are two blind sisters. In spite of the fact that they were both born with vision, Fawzia became blind when she was fourteen years old, while Rasmia followed when she was ten years of age. “I was shocked when I realized that I will never see again. Thus, because of this, I refused to go to school for one whole year. However, with strong faith and the overwhelming support of my mother, I was able to continue studying in Al-KHansa school with my sister as we learned Brail language for the blind together.”

After losing her sight gradually, the situation presented itself in a different way for Rasmia. “Now I see only light and the shadows, while my sister is completely blind and can only see light”, Rasmi explained.

With their university being far from home, the two sisters faced some herculanean difficulties. For example, it was difficult for their widowed mother to take and bring them to school, thus many times they had to walk. Furthermore, the most difficult thing they tried to overcome was recording and following their professors' lectures. She even brought in a special recording device so that she could maintain her focus in class. “Many times, my teachers were even willing to fix my small tape recorder so that I wouldn't miss a thing “, Fawzia explained. Thus, despite the unbelievable problems the sisters faced, cooperation from both teachers and fellow classmates, allowed them to realize their goals.

Since they knew the importance of learning the English language, Fawzia and Rasmi decided to study English to achieve two aims. Firstly, to obtain better job and secondly to improve their family's living standards . Fawzia declared triumphantly that ” we now earn a substantial income and we give it to my mother as a simple gift”. Additionally, Rasmia noted that she still remembers when she became blind. She vividly described how she was so disappointed about their future and how they could possibly be able to live normally because of this abnormality. However, now the two sisters have developed a strong mentality of self reliance and confidence.

Even after graduating college, their dreams have not subsided in any way shape or form. They are planning to continue their studies and improve their English language skills, since it has always been one of their ambitions. “I presented my application to the office of admissions to begin a masters degree, however I was rejected on the basis that this type of study was much too difficult for someone with my condition. In spite of this setback, I will never give up this dream, never”!, Fawzia expressed.

For now they have been English teachers in Al-Saead public school for non-blind students for four years. For them, this represents the first time that they have taught in a public school. However, at first, the administration of the school claimed there are inherent difficulties for blinds to interact with normal students in addition to their ability to facilitate movement within a classroom of a at least 50 students.

“I will never forget the first day that I entered the classroom. The majority of the students were scared to death and it seemed as if they were trying to escape from a monster. They couldn't imagine a blind teacher will teach them. I didn't blame them any way”, Fawzia explained.

In order to check their work, the administration put them under intense scrutiny for three days. The result was great for the school administration when they saw the strong interaction with these two blind teachers. “Always we tried to attract the students while using different tools and teaching methods. In fact, I prefer to bring my own, self-prepared cassettes in an effort to encourage the students to sing and learn”, Fawzia explained.

When a supervisor from the Ministry of Education came to evaluate the teaching process of certain schools, he was enthralled as to what he saw in Sa'ad school with respect to these two teachers. “One day I welcomed a supervisor that came without any warning. That day's lesson happened to be about shopping. I brought foods, vegetables, and juices to show students how to go shopping and how to easily memorize new words. The students and I were actually ready to perform skits, when the supervisor attended the class. He was extremely interested in the lesson preparation, along with student interaction “, Fawzia said.

The only question that the supervisor asked Fawzia was “are you sure you are blind? You are better than normal teachers.”

Furthermore, people who walk near Fawzia's and Rasmia's classes realize the harmony the exists between the blind teacher and her non-blind students. “In fact, many times, students that I don't teach ask for the permission to attend my class”, Fawzia said.

Every year , the administration of schools organizes a celebration for Teacher Day in which the Ministry of Education reward the best teachers in public schools. On two of these occasions Fawzia and Rasmia were rewarded for being the best in that particular school. “Now my mother is too proud of us”, Fawzia gleefully exclaimed.

Tasier Mater, a blind student in the Arabic Department's faculty of education had also been born blind. The first time she came to know about her blindness was when she was seven years old .”I was listening to children talking about colors and views that I couldn't comprehend. However, my family told me about the blindness as being sent from Allah and that I will be rewarded”, Tasier expressed.

Tasier wants to convey a message to the community about blindness yearns to increase public awareness. “I plan to be news broadcaster at Sana`a radio but some people advise me not to do it because I might experience bad treatment from other workers. I have long dreamed to undertake campaigns related to blind people and show how they add a certain illuminating factor to their communities”, Tasier stated.

“Samah Al-Fagieh, is a graduate blind girl, who graduated from Sana'a University last year from the Faculty of Art and Islamic Studies section.

“I still remember how some teachers used to insult and ridicule me because of my blindness. One day a teacher gave me low marks, even though I had scored the best in the entire class. When I asked him why he did so, he simply said 'thank Allah that you passed the exam, as you are simply a blind girl', she said.

The conditions that exists for most blind women can be characterized as low and poor. One of the Aman association's aims is to look for blind women in their area and encourage them to join. Some times parents do not allow their daughters' to join for fear that they could be used as beggars and a mechanism for exploitation. However, there are many parents who bring their daughters to the association, especially after seeing how they are treated.

“There is a father who has six children who are blinds; three boys and three girls. When he knew about the association, he emigrated from his village to live in the city. He is happy to see his daughter studying and improving her skills in different fields.” Ghalia Al-Jahdri, the social researcher for Al-Aman association stated.

“There are about 8 blind girls who graduated from university, 16 students are still studying now in the university, and 18 girls will register next year”, Al-Jahdri noted.

Ali Al-Wajeh is the chief of the Physical Handicapped Association, but furthermore he is a quintessential example of a man who became handicapped after he was 18 years old as a result of an accident where he lost his legs.

But Ali didn't only lose his legs, he lost his job also as a secretary. “After the accident, I hated to meet people or even go out. It was a shock for me to be disabled and I thus went to Britain for a year's treatment”, Ali said.

After Ali returned to Yemen from his treatment in Britain, it was as if he went through his own personal renaissance, obtaining a new zest for life. He, thus, began to undertake improvements in the English Language, computer science, and other courses for the disabled. He would later go on to work in the local council office.

Recently Ali has received a two month scholarship to study in Japan, where he will study about how to qualify himself as a leader. “I plan when I come back to teach the disabled in my association”, Ali stated.

Ali got married to a normal girl who fought her family and society tooth and nail to marry a physically disabled person. “I forgot the idea of marriage after the accident believing that no one would ever accept me. However, I fell in love with a co-worker and she accepted to marry me”, Ali said.

Amel Haza'a is 25 years old, and also physical disabled. She became disabled when she was six months as a result of a fever. But, she continued to make strides an graduated from school with a degree in administration sciences from the National Institute. “I had always dreamt of studying political science at Sana`a university and to become an ambassador, but I couldn't because the facilities at the university were not suitable for the type of accessability that I had required.

After graduation, she started to look for a job. Fortunately she got an official degree to work in a governmental office. However, she was rejected, even though she was qualified to get such a position.

After the onslaught of seemingly bad news. Amel now works at the Water and Sanitation Corporation. “It is a very good place for me. It's near to my house, and I am treated like a regular person”, she said.

The disabled and the private sector

Even though there are many qualified disabled individuals, it is unfortunately rare for them to obtain positions in the private sector. “Employement for the disabled has for a long time been extremely conditioned and regulated, however we are encouraging such companies to employee them with the nominations of qualified people”, Antasar Al- Jofi, a member of employing committee for the National Disabled Union said.

Mobile Telecommunication Network ( MTN) is a private company which implemented to employee qualified disabled individuals. “We are going to employ three physically handicapped individuals at our company as we believe in the important role they play in society”, Salwa Al-Fathli, a representative of employees affairs at MTN explained.

However, some private companies continue to regulate the employment of the disabled. ” We actually employ the physically disabled according to the demands of the labor market and according to bonafide occupational qualifications”, Al-Fathli noted.

Yemeni law and the disabled

The Yemeni law allocates 5 percent of the total gross employment opportunities, in both public and mixed sectors, for the disabled who are qualified in different fields irrespective of their capabilities.

According to a report released by the Bureau of Democracy and Human Rights and Labor on March 8, 2006, “several Yemeni laws mandate the rights and care of the disabled.” A law mandates the acceptance of individuals with disabilities in universities, exempts them from paying tuition, and requires that schools be made more accessible to them. However, no national law mandates the accessibility of buildings for persons with disabilities.

The government's Social Fund for Development and Fund for the Care and Rehabilitation of the Disabled, administered by the MLSA, provided basic services and funded over 60 NGOs to assist persons with disabilities. ” There are approximately 90 different Yemeni private foundations that provide some sort of assistance to the disabled. Furthermore, most of them are currently registered in the National Disabled Union. The majority of them specialize in rehabilitation for the physically handicaped who consider the large number in disabled in Yemen”, Hassan Ismail, the deputy of the National Disables Union, mentioned.

In a recent study, purported by The Yemeni Supreme Council of Motherhood and Childhood, indicated that the registered number of Yemeni disabled is currently at 37,9924.

The study depended on recent data by the 2004 Yemeni census, which indicated that disability is more prevalent among males than females. It further mentioned that about 56.6 percent of the disabled are males, while 43.4 percent of them are females.

According to the study, Taiz governorate has the highest rate of the disabled, numbering 52, 016, while Hodeidah comes in second with 48,398. Al-Mahra , Marab, and Shabw are the lowest governorates in terms of disable cases.