Social initiative facilitates integration of people with disabilities
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Social initiative facilitates

Helping persons with disabilities to become active members in their communities is the purpose Ahmad Shtayyat had in mind when starting “Accept me as I am”, an initiative founded in 2016 aiming to enhance social integration and  motivation of children with disabilities. 

Elaborating on the reasons that pushed him to start the initiative, the 29-year-old told The Jordan Times that “he was working on trainings with several community-based organisations (CBOs) in Irbid” when he realised that the members with disabilities ¨did not see themselves as able to join the community, to the point that most of them would end up cancelling their participation in the trainings”.

“The situation of persons with disabilities in Jordan is really harsh,” Shtayyat continued, noting that “lot of them don’t even have insurance and their financial situation is really bad. And the fact that the government isn’t really activating the laws related to these issues does not help much”.

The initiative provides occupational, physical and speech therapy as a form of early intervention for those suffering from an array of physical, mental and linguistic disabilities, and over 20 workshops have been held within the local community in Irbid and surrounding areas so far. 

In addition, “Accept Me as I am” aims to spread awareness among parents regarding the disabilities of their children, providing them with free rehabilitation programmes, progress monitoring and regular follow ups in individual cases. 

“During the first sessions we held, we realised that many parents came alone, not letting their children attend the sessions by themselves, and we knew that we had to do something about this,” Shtayyat said, noting that “some parents used to see their child as a burden who is going to consume their financial resources, but now, their perception has changed, and they are encouraging them to succeed.”

Tamara, a mother of a sight impaired child living in Amman, told The Jordan Times: “I do everything that is in my hand to give my daughter a life similar to that of any other child, but society makes it difficult.” 

“It was so difficult to find a school that adapts to her needs, and finding extra curricular activities in which she can engage like the rest of the students is nearly impossible,” she explained.

“My hearing impaired cousin is so resilent,” student Yazan Jamel told The Jordan Times, expressing how “growing up, she came up with solutions to all those things that presented a challenge for her, such as connecting lights to the doorbell when she moved out of the family house, or having a voice recording ready to put over the phone in the event of an emergency”.

“The problem that parents have here is that, when they look at their children with disabilities, they think that they will not be able to build their own lives like anyone else and they treat them that way — but they do: they grow up, they find jobs, they build impressive careers, and they too get married and raise their own children overcoming everything,” Jamel expressed. 

Shtayyat is now one of the 20 fellows of the fourth edition of the BADIR social entrepreneurship support programme, which equips Jordanian leaders with the skills and knowledge needed to scale up their social projects. 

Led by the International Youth Foundation and funded by the USAID, the programme aims to “connect young, ambitious social entrepreneurs to like-minded peers from around the world to help them create a widespread, positive change around their communities”, according to BADIR’s official website. 

Shtayyat thanked BADIR for accepting him in this year’s edition, expressing his hopes “to change the perception that people have of persons with disabilities, and to keep on educating the community on how to treat them in a way so they can feel accomplished and empowered”.

“Now, we are looking forward to expanding our work to other governorates in Jordan,” he continued, noting that the initiative´s next objective is to build a centre in Irbid to assist persons with disabilities and the people around them.