New scheme promotes disabled rights in Egypt

Mar 11, 2016 Helm, an initiative aimed at improving accessibility and providing workplace training for physically challenged persons, recently set up shop in Egypt.

The organization, whose name translates to “dream”, won first prize in a social entrepreneurship competition hosted by MIT University in 2013 and was awarded the Rise Egypt two-year-long fellowship from Harvard University in 2014.

Helm, which started out as a club at the American University in Cairo, builds ramps and trains disabled people in an attempt to help them have greater access.

Commenting on the scope of the initiative, Ramez Maher, the co-founder of Helm, said:

“The idea of accessibility is one that a lot of people think is just about ramps, that we can just build a ramp and resolve the problem the problem of all the disabled people in Egypt. But that’s not true, because accessibility, how we define accessibility is that it’s any obstacle facing a person in facing their daily lives, and this obstacle isn’t in the person himself, it’s in the environment around them,”

Promoting full inclusion, the organization is currently working on projects to prepare disabled people for work and to make public spaces more accessible for them.

Also commenting on the organization, Amina al-Saie, the co-founder and CEO of Helm, said:

“Their teams come and wonder ‘how should I deal with somebody with visual impairment – has anyone taught me? has anyone trained me?’ And very few places train people on how to deal with disabled people, so when they get hired at companies, no one knows how to embrace them. At the same time, these disabled persons are usually very sensitive due to the injustice in their society, and maybe they don’t know how to interact at the workplace because they don’t have the basis of how to deal in the workplace,”

The NGO is currently training 600 visually impaired persons in 35 training facilities in Cairo, Giza, Alexandria, Red Sea, Daqahlia, and Minya.

Shehab al-Omda, a disabled trainee, said that it’s still uncommon for companies to hire people with disabilities.

“Until now, it’s (hiring disabled people) only been individual cases, and they are so rare, that I feel like they’re more about publicity. The society itself needs to be prepared, more than the blind or the disabled. The blind and disabled are people just like everybody else, but the problem is that the society itself needs to be taught how to deal with all of the different factions,”

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