By Rafiq Vayani
DUBAI: His Highness Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum, President of Dubai Civil Aviation Authority(DCAA), Chairman of Dubai Airports, Chairman and Chief Executive of Emirates Airline and Group, inaugurated AcessAbilities Expo, the Middle East’s largest expo for people with disabilities, at Dubai International Convention and Exhibition Centre today.
More than 150 exhibitors from 40 countries including USA, Canada, South Korea, UK, Australia, Cyprus, India, China, Italy, Czech Republic, Kuwait, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), are showcasing the world’s latest assistive technology products and solutions, at the three-day expo (November 7-9), which aims to benefit over 50 million people with disabilities across the Middle East and is focused on integration, inclusion and empowerment of people of determination.
Sheikh Ahmed emphasized on the importance of assistive technologies in empowering people of determination and ensuring their maximum participation in the society.
“We are well on our way to achieving our goal of making the UAE a friendly country for this dear segment of our society, Sheikh Ahmed said.
He appreciated the AccessAbilities Expo team for organizing the expo, which is the largest of its kind in the Middle East, and brings an opportunity to cater to the needs of people of determination.
“The expo is also aimed at motivating government authorities and private sector participants to improve their understanding of people of determination and enhance their services to better meet their needs, integrate them into society and enable them to overcome their daily challenges,” Sheikh Ahmed, who is the Patron of AccessAbilities Expo, said at the end of his tour of the expo, spread over 8,000 sqm in Halls 7 and 8 of Dubai International Convention and Exhibition Centre (DICEC).
After cutting the ceremonial ribbon to declare the official opening of the Expo, Sheikh Ahmed, accompanied by His Excellency Jamal Al Hai, Member Federal National Council (FNC) and Deputy CEO Dubai Airports, His Excellency Helal Al Marri, Director General of Dubai Tourism and CEO of Dubai World Trade Centre and top-tier government officials, diplomats, businessmen and other dignitaries, started the tour by visiting the stands of government departments including Dubai Electricity and Water Authority (DEWA), Dubai Municipality, Dubai Customs, Community Development Authority, Sabah Al Ahmed, Roads and Transport Authority (RTA), Dubai Police, General Directorate of Residency and Foreigners Affairsin Dubai (GDRFA), followed by Korean Pavillion, Zayed Higher Organisation (ZHO), private sector exhibitors including AMMT, NMC Trading, Medical Gate, 247 Medical Equipment, UAE and GCC Centres for people of determination including the Rashid Centre for the Disabled, Saudi Schizophrenia Charity Association, Al Hussein Society-Jordan Centre for Training and Inclusion, the dedicated Sports Activity Area which is being organised by Dubai Club for People of Determination, Ministry of Community Development and Dubai Corporation of Ambulance Services (DCAS).
His Highness saw the latest assistive technology products on display, services being offered by government departments and met with representatives of associations for the disabled.
Being held under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum, President of Dubai Civil Aviation Authority, Chairman of Dubai Airports, Chairman and Chief Executive of Emirates Airline and Group, AccessAbilities Expo involves participation from over 40 countries including USA, Canada, South Korea, UK, Australia, Cyprus, India, China, Italy, Czech Republic, Kuwait, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
The event has a strong support from government bodies including Ministry of Community Development, Dubai Health Authority, Dubai Municipality, Roads and Transport Authority (RTA), Dubai Electricity and Water Authority (DEWA), Dubai Police, General Directorate of Residency and Foreigners Affairs (GDRFA) in Dubai, Community Development Authority (CDA), Dubai Customs, Dubai Ambulance Services (DCAS) and Zayed Higher Organisation (ZHO), who are showcasing new services, employment opportunities, and facilities aimed at inclusion and ensuring happiness of their customers and employees having disabilities.
The three-day Expo is being utilised as an ideal launchpad for a wide portfolio of assistive technology products and solutions by international and local companies.
International exhibitors also expressed a keen interest on entering the UAE and GCC markets due to active government initiatives toward inclusion and integration in the region.
Woolchul Shin, Global Marketing Manager, Neo Access from Korea, which launched a smart Braille notetaker with Artificial Intelligence voice secretary, said: “The UAE and GCC are taking numerous accessibility initiatives and are supporting assistive technology companies, which makes this a very attractive potential market. We are keen on entering this market and are expecting to find a suitable distributor or a partner.”
John Dalton from UK-based Roma Medical, a leading manufacturer and supplier of mobility and rehabilitation products, which launched a range of sports wheelchair for basketball, tennis and rugby and multi sports wheelchairs for children, at AccessAbilities Expo, said: “AccessAbilities Expo is our launch pad to the world for these sports wheelchairs. We are also expecting to meet potential distributors from other Gulf countries and the Middle East.”
South-Korean company Dot introduced the world’s first Braille Smart Watch at the Expo.
Kyle Choi from Naran, a South-Korean award-winning company in innovation, which showcased its smart hub that lets the users control their devices away from home or office and Microbot Push, which lets the user remotely control devices, said: “The expo has brought us an opportunity to find the right business opportunities in the Middle East region and connect with the right buyers of assistive technology.”
Evelyn Ryu from the International Sales Department of HIMS, an assistive technology company, said: “This expo is the ideal platform to spread our assistive technology products widely across the UAE and the region and enhance the lives of people with disabilities.”
Ibrahim Barbour, API, which launched Flexi Ramp, for easy and comfortable transport of wheelchair users, said: “We have launched Flexi Ramp in the UAE and GCC market at the expo, which provides us with an opportunity to connect with people having disabilities, their families as well as organizations and companies in government and private sector.”
MIH Systems Corporation launched ‘Amal’ smart glasses, for the first ever time in the world, which will enable people with visual impairment to live independent lives and also increase their employability.
Mohammed Islam, CEO, MIH Systems Corporation, said: “The Amal smart glasses will transform lives of people with visual impairment like never before. Not only do these glasses help the user function without constant assistance from others, they also increase their employability as they help the user to read text. We started research for these glasses in year 2010, did rigorous testing on the product and we will use AccessAbilities Expo as the launch pad to benefit the maximum possible number of people.”
AMMT, a company engaged in providing fully integrated solutions for medical industry, presented “miracle gadget” named ‘Speecheasy’, a device which helps its user to control stuttering and speak fluently after training within about three hours.
Muwafaq Matari, Managing Partner, AMMT, said: “We are participating for the second time and AccessAbilities is the best platform where we can reach out to the maximum number of people of determination from this region who can benefit from the use of assistive technology.“
Mohammed Kettaneh, Managing Director, Starkey Hearing, showcased the first-of-its-kind hearing aids and also devices for those with visual impairment, said: “There is a strong need for innovative assistive technology, which is life transforming, to reach out to millions of people. AccessAbilities, by creating a platform and bringing companies from across the world together, provides the right opportunities to spread use of smart technology throughout the region and benefit millions of people.”
The company launched Braille Note touch, a Braille device with touchscreen maximizing the traditional braille literacy and modern type.
Organised by Reed Exhibitions Middle East and Nadd AlShiba PR and Event Management, the expo includes an array of features, encouraging people having disabilities, their families and all those associated with them, to share experiences, gain knowledge about the latest methods being adopted in training, explore solutions and assistive technology and benefit from insights from experts in the field of disabilities.
Centres, association and voluntary organisations from the GCC and the UAE have a strong representation in the AccessAbilities Expo. Among those who areparticipating are Dubai Club for the Disabled, Dubai Autism Center, Al Noor Training Centre for Persons with Disabilities, Sharjah City for Humanitarian Services, Rashid Centre for the Disabled, Al Husein Society – Jordan Center for Training & Inclusion, Al Salam Edu. Club Center, Al Tareq Rehabilitation & Autismus Center, Al Thiqah Club, Asasco for Training and Development, American Center for Special Abilities, Association of Families of Persons with Disabilities, Autism Support Network, Awladouna Center for People with Disabilities, Cerebral Palsy Foundation, Charitable Society of Autism Families, Dubai Center for Special Needs, Emirates Autism Society, Emirates Speech Language Pathology Society, Enable, First Step Team, Fursan Medical Equipment, Group Fakher Al Watan Volunteer Team, Gulf Disability Society, Integreat Center for Special Needs, Jordanian Club for the Deaf, King Salman Center for Disability Research, King Saud University – Higher Education Program for the Deaf, Kuwait Society for the follow-up of Disabled Persons, Manzil, Mawaheb from Beautiful People, Modern Alternative Education, Nafeh Al Amal Volunteer Group, Oman Paralympic Committee, Riding for the Disabled, Saudi Schizophrenia Charity Association, Stars for Special Abilities and Early Intervention, Taleem Training & Skills Development Center, The Team of Will and Challenge, UAE Deaf Associatiion, UAE Down Syndrome Association, UAE MS Support Group and Wings of Angelz.
The Dubai Club for People of Determination is the Strategic Sports Partner for the event and is organizing unified sports, bringing people with and without disabilities together, during AccessAbilities Expo in a dedicated sports area.
The sports activities include wheelchair basketball, boccia, archery, badminton, Kung Fu demonstration and athletics. The sports will be open to all, with the goal of facilitating inclusion.
The exclusive ‘Activity Area’ in the Expo offers an array of recreational programmes including yoga, dance, meditation and martial arts classes.
The inaugural edition of the expo in 2016 was remarkably successful with more than 6,000 people, including individuals with disabilities, their families, educationists, experts from different sectors such as healthcare, technology and infrastructure, and decision-makers, attending the exhibition and exhibitors from 41 countries showcasing the latest products and services at the event. This year, AccessAbilities Expo expects over 8,000 visitors.