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Saudi Arabia takes steps to make Hajj sites disabled-friendly

The recommendations call for making utilities, buildings and hotels disabled-friendly to serve people with special needs

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Crown Prince Muhammad bin Naif, deputy premier, minister of interior and chairman of the Supreme Hajj Committee, has issued directives to study the recommendations made by the Ministry of Haj and Umrah on facilitating matters for the disabled to use utilities in Makkah, Madinah and the holy sites.

The recommendations were referred to the crown prince by Makkah Emir Prince Khaled Al-Faisal, adviser to Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques and chairman of the Central Hajj Committee.

The recommendations call for making utilities, buildings and hotels in the two holy cities and the ritual sites disabled-friendly to serve people with special needs. They will be tabled for discussion during the forthcoming meeting of the Supreme Hajj Committee. The recommendations include preparing the services utilities in the holy sites in the first stage to facilitate the movement of people with physical disabilities.

The following stages will cover the infrastructure including the rehabilitation of the roads and streets in the holy sites, the train stations and the Jamarat Bridge as per international standards. The objective is to facilitate the movement of people with special needs.

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Special blocks will be allocated for Tawafa establishments and domestic pilgrim companies to serve the disabled. Special restrooms will be allocated for them in camps at the holy sites. Signs will be placed to guide them to the special utilities and facilities for their use.

The recommendations also include providing the required number of buses within the Hajj fleet to meet their needs. It should be made compulsory for Hajj affairs offices to provide the ministry with the number of pilgrims with special needs annually well in time to make the necessary arrangements.

The aim is to make sure Hajj affairs offices provide staff to accompany and help the disabled pilgrims who are not accompanied by relatives or other aides. All the utilities, facilities, buildings and hotels where Hajj and Umrah pilgrims stay or use should be prepared in such a way that people with special needs will not face any difficulty in movement in all Hajj sites.

A specialist agency should be assigned to study the current accomplishments made in this regard and how far the forthcoming stages will be benefited from following their completion. The aim is to boost the positive aspects and detect the negative aspects and observations. Any unforeseen shortcomings shall be dealt with immediately.

This article was first published in the Saudi Gazette on January 11, 2016.