Wheelchair accessibility of public buildings in the city of Al Ain, United Arab Emirates (UAE

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Rivano-Fischer, Daniel, RPT, MSc
Post Graduate Program Lund University, Faculty of Physical Therapy, Sweden (2003)

Introduction
The United Nations General Assembly adopted in 1993 The Standard Rules on the Equalization of Opportunities for Persons with Disabilities. In Rule 5, it is written: “States should introduce programmes of action to make the physical environment accessible”, further “Such measures should be to develop standards and guidelines and to consider enacting legislation to ensure accessibility to various areas in society”. In 1990, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was passed by The United States Congress. The ADA’s Accessibility Guidelines (ADAAG) became the standards for accessible design, establishing the minimum requirements for accessibility in buildings and facilities. Most published studies about wheelchair accessibility of buildings base their assessments in the American Standards ADAAG. In the UAE, no federal standards or guidelines regulating the accessibility of buildings for wheelchair users have been reported when relevant Ministries were approached (Health, Information, Interior, and Finance)*.

None of the buildings recorded 100% compliance Legislation protecting the accessibility for wheelchair users is suggested

Environmental barriers

Purpose
The purpose of this study was to assess the accessibility to public buildings for wheelchair users in Al Ain, the 4th largest city of the United Arab Emirates.

Street signage blocking the access

Material and Method
Data were collected at seventeen buildings, randomly chosen using the local telephone book as source. The instrument used was a survey form covering eight accessibility areas: parking, ramps, entrances, accessible routes, toilets, elevators, public telephones and water fountains. The survey comprised 79 items based on the Americans with Disabilities Act Guidelines (ADAAG).

Results
None of the buildings recorded 100% compliance with the items in the survey form. The highest overall compliance scored was 73%, and the lowest was 13%. The highest compliant accessibility area was accessible route with a mean of 76%, and the lowest was parking with a mean of 19%.

Toilet door not wide enough

Conclusions
The results of this study show that all of the buildings and many of the areas investigated for wheelchair accessibility compliance in Al Ain are in need of improvement. A wheelchair user would have encountered many and difficult architectural barriers if he had visited any of the public sites surveyed in the city of Al Ain. This study could be seen as an example of what happens when the modern urban environment evolves in a non regulated context, lacking legislation protecting and ensuring the accessibility for the wheelchair bound member of society. Table 1. Percentage compliance of 8 accessibility areas at 17 public buildings in the city of Al Ain
Areas Buildings (Constructed) Museum (1971) Hotel (1971) Library (1977) Health Care (1979) Local Gov 1 (1984) Local Gov 2 (1984) Administrative (1985) Fitness (1994) Bank (1996) Local Gov 3 (1996) Faculty (1997) Cinema (1998) Federal Gov 1 (1999) Federal Gov 2 (2000) Shopping Mall (2001) Business (2001) Federal Gov 3 (2002) Average Parking 0% 0% 0% 0% 0% 0% 0% 0% 0% 0% 80% 0% 60% 60% 60% 60% 0% 19% Ramp 75% 60% 40% 60% 75% 0% 0% 40% 33% 50% 60% 40% 80% 47% Entrance 50% 75% 50% 100% 75% 50% 75% 75% 50% 50% 50% 75% 50% 100% 75% 75% 75% 68% Route 0% 75% 81% 100% 77% 60% 80% 75% 0% 93% 87% 93% 87% 100% 96% 93% 95% 76% Toilet 11% 33% 0% 44% 0% 0% 0% 33% 44% 78% 22% 33% 100% 100% 33% 35% Elevator 33% 67% 33% 17% 33% 67% 83% 50% 50% 50% 50% 48% Phone 33% 100% 67% 67% 67% 67% 33% 100% 67% 67% 67% 67% 67% 67% 67% Fountain 0% 100% 0% 67% 67% 67% 100% 67% 67% 59% Average 24% 54% 40% 63% 52% 36% 34% 53% 13% 54% 73% 54% 59% 68% 73% 73% 58%

A ramp without a leveled landing surface next to the door

A public phone blocked by chairs

Reference Rivano-Fischer D. Wheelchair accessibility of public buildings in Al Ain, United Arab Emirates (UAE). Disability and Rehabilitation 2004; Vol 26; No 19: 1150-1157.
* This study was published in 2004. Legislation has been announced in the media in 2006 & 2007.

Contact Daniel Rivano-Fischer, E-mail: ivadani@hotmail.com