Disability in the Middle East

An overview of the policies, definitions and initiatives around disability in the GCC, Arab Region and Middle East

How many people are disabled in MENA region?

According to the World Bank, there are up to 30m disabled people in the Middle East and north Africa region

How are children protected in UAE?

The Government of the UAE is committed to the welfare of children. Children who are citizens receive free health care and education. The standards of health care are considered to be generally high in the United Arab Emirates.

Who are students of determination and how are they being helped?

Students with Special Educational Needs are assisted in the UAE by a variety of organizations and Ministries such as KHDA

Who are considered People of Determination?

The law in the UAE defines a person of determination as someone suffering from a temporary or permanent, full or partial deficiency or infirmity in physical, sensory, mental, communication, educational or psychological abilities.

Is the population growing in the Middle East?

The GCC has one of the fastest-growing populations in the world. By 2020 this population is forecast to increase by one-third, to 53m people

Does the Middle East have an ageing population?

Counties in the GCC have a very young population, with majority of people under age of 25 due to more recent population growth. Therefore the ageing population challenges are due to be faced more so, within the next decade.

“The contemporary world is witnessing astonishing progress in all fields of scientific and technological developments. Scientific research is the main ingredient in civilized society. We at the King Salman Center look forward to establishing the best scientific applications… and achieving positive development for persons with disabilities and their families”

What policies and initiatives are there for people of determination in the UAE?

Dubai Inclusive Education Policy Framework

Under the leadership of HH Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid
Al Maktoum and in accordance with ‘My Community…A city for everyone’ initiative the Inclusive Education Task Force, in collaboration with all education providers, is committed to achieving educational excellence and is therefore determined to establish a quality inclusive education system across the Emirate of Dubai.


The focus on inclusive education is part of the wider vision for Dubai to become a fully inclusive city. This, in turn, is part of a wider strategic plan which, in addition to education, incorporates health and rehabilitation, employment, universal accessibility and social protection.

The UAE Sign Language Dictionary

In 2018, the UAE launched the first ‘Emirati sign language dictionary’, which seeks to develop and standardise the signs used by people of determination with hearing impairments across the UAE. The dictionary is available online, and it includes 5,000 words for teaching people with hearing difficulties and training sign language translators.


The dictionary is in line with Vision 2021 and National Agenda which aim to maintain a cohesive society and promote an inclusive environment that integrates all segments of society.

My Community....A City for Everyone

“My Community… A City for Everyone” aims at turning Dubai into an inclusive, barrier-free, rights-based society that promotes, protects and ensures the self-determination of everyone.

The strategy to achieve this vision consists of:


  • Planning and development
  • Policy formation, implementation and evaluation
  • Remediation and access to justice
  • Procurement of public and private services
  • Public participation

The strategy follows a twin-track approach to provide equality of rights and opportunities for people of determination.

The five main pillars are:

  • Quality health and rehabilitation services
  • Inclusive education
  • Equal employment opportunities
  • Universal accessibility
  • Sustainable social protection system

The UAE Disability Act 2006

The UAE Disability Act (Federal Law No. 29/2006) was passed in 2006 to protect the rights of people with disabilities. This law stipulates that UAE nationals with disabilities have the same rights to work and occupy public positions. In addition, the UAE ratified the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities on the March 19, 2010.


In March 2014, HH Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE, in his capacity as the Ruler of Dubai, issued Law No. (2) of 2014 “to protect the rights of people with disabilities in the emirate of Dubai”. The law supports Federal Law No. (29) concerning the rights of people with disabilities, and supports providing high-quality medical care and social services, boosts public awareness of people with disabilities, contributes to integrating people with disabilities into society, and reaffirms their participation in social development 

“Today’s launch of the Abu Dhabi Strategy for People of Determination re-affirms our commitment to inclusion, equality and empowerment for all members of UAE society, upholding everyone’s right to participate fully and with dignity in our community”

Terminology for People of Determination Handbook

The handbook produced by the Dubai Executive Council as part of their strategy ‘My Community, A City for Everyone’. The communications handbook contains guidelines on how to reference people of determination in official communications and documents for public or mass consumption.
The handbook provides clarifying information on misconceptions regarding disabilities, vocabulary dos and don’ts, and tips for framing stories, conducting interviews with people of determination, and preparing the information in accessible formats for inclusive consumption.

It's About Ability

The purpose of this human rights activities guide is to empower children and young people with and without disabilities to speak out on the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD), to advocate for their rights, and to make their communities more inclusive.
The guide was designed to serve as a resource to the booklet “It’s About Ability: An explanation of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities”, a summary of the Convention written especially for children. The learning guide can be downloaded here. The activities in this guide are to be used by young leaders, peer educators, teachers and other educators at the community level to facilitate learning among 12- to 18-year-olds about the convention and how it applies to children. The main thrust of this guide is that all children and young people are equal: with appropriate attitudes, support and confidence, every person can lead a fruitful and self-determined life in their community with dignity.

The Guide for Built Environment and Universal Design Code

Produced by the Dubai Municipality, the original Universal Design Code was launched in 2017. The purpose of the Dubai Universal Design Code is to define how the built environment and transportation systems in the Emirate shall be designed, constructed and managed to enable one to approach, enter, use, egress from and evacuate independently, in an equitable and dignified manner, to the greatest extent possible, in line with the Universal Design concept. 

This proceeding document was a This illustrated guide has dual purposes, firstly to be used as audit hand book integrally with the classified universal design checklist in order to ensure the compliance with Dubai Universal Design Code requirements. Secondly, to be used as an inclusive design guide which helps in demonstrating the design characteristics of accessible built environment that enables everyone to approach, enter, use, and egress from the buildings safely and independently.

““an inclusive community, free from barriers that guarantees the empowerment and well-being of People of Determination””

What organizations are helping disabled people in the UAE?

Arab Organization of Persons with Disabilities

The Arab Organization of Persons with Disabilities (AOPD) is an independent non-profit organization founded in 1998 in Cairo, Egypt. It is a regional organization composed of DPOs operating in the different Arab Countries. AOPD’s main objectives are to promote the rights of people with disabilities, to empower people with disabilities and to represent Arab people with disabilities in the world at large

The King Salman Center for Disability Research

The King Salman Center for Disability Research in Saudi Arabia works to implement and fund scientific and field scientific research in all areas of disability, and to disseminate the knowledge gained through training and publication. The Center aims to make the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia a leading role in research about disability and its causes. The center unifies the resources of the public and private sector to ensure continued support for the Center so it can in turn continue to foster scientific research efforts, regardless of their duration.

Dubai Club for People of Determination

Established in 1993, the Dubai Club for The Disabled aims to rehabilitate the disabled both physically and mentally to play their developmental role in the community in sports, cultural and social fields. The Club spared no efforts to devote all available capabilities to members depending on their disabilities, and provide a wide range of sports suit their abilities. The Club is keen on participating in all sports competitions both locally and internationally leading the Club athletes to ascend podiums in local and international forums. Additionally, the Club paid attention to the cultural level of its members, as it is a component of human development.


The first digital hub of inclusion in MENA. The Iminclusive App connects persons with disabilities (People of Determination) to inclusive jobs and opportunities.


ImInclusive was launched in Abu Dhabi, UAE, and incubated at the inaugural first-of its-kind social incubation center, Ma’an. Ma’an translates to “Together” in English. Today, ImInclusive successfully operates in multiple communities.