Ooredoo Maldives, and Housing Development Corporation (HDC) partnered with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) to launch the first 'Promoting Disability Inclusive Development Forum’ held in the country. This forum was hosted by Hotel Jen Maldives, also currently the only venue in the city that had all the facilities to host an event of this capacity and concurrently accommodate to the needs for Persons with Disabilities.
The event was presided by Minister of Gender & Family, Ms Zenysha Shaheed Zaki as Chief Guest, who was welcomed by UN Resident Coordinator Shoko Noda.
The forum, which was held under the ‘Smart Cities’ project initiated by Ooredoo Maldives, HDC and UNDP Maldives was attended by representatives from all partners as well as individuals from several NGOs and Stakeholders.
Speaking at the event, UN Resident Coordinator Ms. Shoko Noda noted “One of the key areas of the project is to ensure that all services available in a smart city are accessible to and include Persons with Disabilities. The project also focuses on removing barriers that prevent this,” she also praised the Ministry of Gender and Family for the progress of the work done by the Ministry over the past year in providing better opportunities for Persons with Disabilities.
One of the highlights of the event was the speech given by Dr. Najib Khan, CEO of Ooredoo Maldives. As one of the key partners of the event and the smart cities project, Dr. Najb Khan announced the company’s plans to provide free internet access to local NGO websites. Hestated, “As we become increasingly digital and discover smart solutions to old and new problems, we must ensure that no one is left behind.”
The objective of the forum was to review and improve accessibility and inclusivity for Persons with Disabilities, and to empower them to become active members of the society through minimizing their barriers to participate.This platform helped identify the challenges for persons with disabilities in the current environment and how and what can be done to provide them with equal opportunities.There was also an awareness component, which highlighted the current policies in place. Emphasis was given on the importance of considering the concept of Universal Design as a key to the development of a human centered smart city. The forum will benefit the Smart Cities Project, as it helps identify various components that can be improved for the advancement of persons with disabilities.
Comprising of more than 100 participants, the forum ended with eight different actions plans highlighting the topics; Addressing Public Infrastructure and Buildings Accessibility, Road Accessibility and Development, Accessing Parks and Public Space, Accessing Business Ventures and Services, Transport Accessibility, Accessing and Provision of Quality Education, Accessing Health Services and Provision of Health Services, and Employment Provision and Participation.
A report will be shared with all participants, and also will be available to the public in the coming month. This report would provide a better understanding of the points highlighted in the forum and also help in the development and implementation of various mechanisms in public and private organizations to ensure the inclusivity of persons with disability in the society.