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Dubai: The Lack of Great Expectations
By: Ming Canaday | January 10th 2019, 11:04 am
Ming Canaday

Ming Canaday is a writer, entrepreneur, and a passionate traveler.


Perspective. A change in perspective, a change in scene could make a world of difference. It is no doubt that traveling in a wheelchair is more difficult in some ways, but it is also more rewarding in other ways. Our disability also makes us more vulnerable and reliant on others. Although, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. In a highly digitized world where we can write off others with a swipe of a finger for some very superficial and arbitrary reasons, disability could enable an individual to get know one another better. Let me tell you why by sharing a recent trip of mine to Dubai in the United Arab Emirates.

When I first saw Sadaqat, my confidence level towards the desert tour during my time in Dubai took a nose dive. This judgement surfaced when he hadn’t even opened his mouth. This judgement came about because of the way he dressed. He wore a long white rope and did not speak much English. But because of my disability and my desire to go to the desert, I was pushed to take some risks and got to know him a little better. Since Sadaqat’s van was full with other tourists, my wheelchair couldn’t fit. I had to leave my wheelchair behind at the hostel with people I had just met that very morning. And Sadaqat turned out to be a very pleasant gentleman. I learned that his wife had just given birth to a cute little girl. He had a charming smile and a gentleness about him that put you at ease. He was very attentive to my every need and worry. During meal time at the dessert, he drove the car right to my table. And since it was a buffet style dinner and I couldn’t wheel to the food easily, he brought over every single dish for me to choose from. He even went out of his way to make my trip an exciting one. Sadaqat talked to his friends who were giving tourists camel rides to give me a camel for free. It was a short ride, but definitely a ride to remember. I would’ve missed getting to know this beautiful soul and this amazing experience had I not been forced to be more reliant on him.

But others also need to be patient. They need to allow time to get to know us and our disabilities. The United Arab Emirates (UAE) is a perfect example of a country with great intentions, but not so high expectations towards individuals with disabilities and does not take the time to see what we’re capable of. Dubai’s public trains are some of the most wheelchair accessible trains in the world. Unlike in most metro stations, the elevators are located right in the middle of the platform, very visible to anyone getting off of the train. Their buses are also very wheelchair friendly. When purchasing tickets to tourist attractions, individuals with disabilities (or “people of determination” as they say in the UAE) often get discounted tickets or we get to enter for free along with one caregiver. Most of the newer buildings are wheelchair accessible.

44458179_1932224370416573_4824570569284386816_nEverything sounds great up until this point, but why do I accuse the people of UAE of not having high expectations towards individuals with disabilities? This is because experience has demonstrated this to me. During my time in Dubai, I accidentally booked a flight from Abu Dhabi to Beruit instead of from the city where I was living in, at the time — Dubai, to Beirut. My heart sank when I arrived at the Dubai International Airport and the airport staff informed me I not only had go to a different airport, but I also had to go to a different city to catch my flight. By that time, the metro had already closed and my only option to catch the coach bus to Abu Dhabi was the public bus if I wanted to maintain my budget friendly travel. It was a good thing I arrived at the airport hours before my plane was departing.

It took me quite some time to find that particular public bus stop station around the airport. Once I wheeled onto the bus, it was around a 45-minute ride. Since public bus did not go directly to the coach bus stop, I also had to ride a taxi. The bus station was dark and empty, with no one in sight except a security guard. The next coach bus to Abu Dhabi was not going to be another few hours. It was a long wait, but morning eventually arrived.

But these words were what greeted me in the morning, “You are not allowed on the bus, sorry. You have to take a taxi to the Abu Dhabi airport.”After going through the trouble of commuting on a public bus, then riding in a taxi, then waiting for a few hours in the middle of the night to catch this specific Etihad Airways bus so that I can board my flight to Beirut, I was told that I would not be allowed on the bus.I showed the man my itinerary which proved that I should be on that bus. He went over to the back and made some calls. Later he came out and asked me, “do you have a temporary disability or a permanent disability? We don’t allow people who have permanent disabilities on our bus.” I needed to catch my flight and was not about to miss it, so I lied and said I had a temporary disability. And then he asked if I could get to the seat by myself, I said yes. This was true. Truth be told, anybody observing my custom-built wheelchair would know my disability is not temporary.

The lack of confidence towards individuals with disabilities to travel independently was hurtful, especially for a country who has such accessible infrastructure. It was declaring to me who ultimately had power to determine our faith, able-body people. We, individuals with disabilities, were not seen as equals to the able-body population since we cannot even be trusted to ride on the bus by ourselves.

Some may read this blogpost and try to avoid Dubai. However, for most of you, I hope it will invigorate your resolve to travel and see the world to prove that we, individuals with disabilities, are capable and independent beyond their wildest imagination. If given the chance and the resources, we can be anything and do anything we put our minds…just like everyone else. Our hunger for adventure and curiosity for the unknown is as intense as anyone else.

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