University marks International Day of People with Disabilities

Marking International Day of People with Disabilities, Birzeit University organized a special event, titled “Disability: Reality and Challenges,” on December 3, 2019.

Vice President for Academic Affairs Khalid Swaileh shed light on the issues that most people with special needs in Palestine face, asking that society and its institutions take on the responsibility of providing fair and decent means of living and making education and healthcare accessible to create an inclusive and friendly environment.

Swaileh affirmed that the university is investing great efforts into providing an accessible infrastructure for people of special needs.  He alluded to the modern media and devices the university offers to help people with disabilities in their education, such as text readers and amplifiers, and to its provision of books printed in Braille alongside their standard counterparts.

Azim Assaf, the chairperson of the Committee for Persons with Special Needs, gave an overview of the committee’s history and explained its role at the university. Today, he stated, it focuses mainly on physical and emotional support, achieving the former by utilizing modern technology, applying inclusive methods of education, and providing the infrastructure necessary to ease the daily routine of people with special needs. The university aims to create emotional support by building a friendlier and more inclusive and accepting social environment through awareness raising and encouragement. Assaf assured that the committee’s future is bright, as Birzeit University can boast of and embraces many talented and distinguished students and employees with special needs.

Khalil Alawnah, head of the Palestinian Ministry of Education’s special-education institutes section, stated that the ministry, in partnership with other ministries and social institutes, is dedicated to helping people with special needs and works intensively to achieve more inclusive and more equal opportunities in schools. Alawnah noted also that graduates with special needs are given equal opportunities in the ministry of education’s employment exams.

Abeer Hamad, the head of rehabilitation programs at Star Mountain Rehabilitation Center, highlighted the importance of rehabilitation centers in efforts to provide diverse opportunities in music, crafts, and art to help persons, especially children, with disabilities embrace their talents and establish their own life choices. Hamad shared a number of success stories and called for the spreading of more awareness among parents, in particular, and society, in general, to make them realize the true potential of people with special needs.

Ziad Amro, a member of the Palestinian Disability Coalition, stated that the first step towards ensuring a better life for people with disabilities is to stop treating them like out-of-the-ordinary people because, he assured, people with special needs want their societies to treat them like any other individual. Amro called for more policies and rules to secure an enabling rather than disabling environment.