UAE Disabilities Program Director Presents at Access Israel Conference

Original Article Published On The Jerusalem Post

“I almost feel like Neil Armstrong right now, the first person there doing this. A small step in moving the journey forward, sharing best practices and keep going!”

On the same day that a small senior delegation from the United Arab Emirates, including ministers of economy and finance and two deputy ministers, met in Israel, more than 650 people from 83 countries met on Zoom and Facebook to also make history. They participated in a four-hour conference sponsored by Access Israel, featuring Dr. Ayesha Saeed Husaini, founder and director of Manzil from the United Arab Emirates.

Husaini’s presentation on PRIDE (People Receiving Independence and Dignity through Empowerment), the Manzil employment program for people with disabilities, was part of the international webinar, titled “Employment of People with Disabilities – Challenges, Solutions, Technologies and Best Practices.” It was simultaneously translated into Spanish, Russian, Hebrew, Arabic and American Sign Language and was closed-captioned. The webinar included attendees from the United Arab Emirates.

Michal Rimon, the CEO of Access Israel, met Husaini in February 2020 in Austria at the Zero Project Conference, which brought together accessibility leaders and organizations from around the world. Rimon was particularly impressed with Husaini and the work she and her team were and are doing at Manzil, and began wondering how the organizations might work together.

“We discussed what options do we have? I have an American passport, someone there has Portuguese citizenship. You know, maybe we can meet and collaborate,” reported Rimon somewhat ironically, as she had no idea that in a few short months, Israel and the UAE would sign historic accords.

“The changes that have occurred… the peace treaty that was signed, opening the doors, making connections possible, overcoming barriers, this is for us really an exciting time, and I can tell you that when I met Dr. Aisha I was really impressed by what they were doing.”

Alison Brown, deputy cultural attaché of the US Embassy in Tel Aviv, was particularly pleased with Husaini’s participation as she addressed the audience from her home in Tel Aviv.

“I would especially like to extend a special welcome to Dr. Husaini,” Brown said. “Her participation in this conference is one of the fruits of the recently signed Abraham Accords, the historic agreement between Israel and the UAE and between Israel and Bahrain, which will make it possible for people of all walks of life, of all abilities and all religions, to connect with each other and build a more secure and prosperous future in the Middle East.”

Husaini began her remarks, “I almost feel like Neil Armstrong right now, the first person there doing this. A small step in moving the journey forward, sharing best practices and keep going!”

Participants enjoyed Husaini’s presentation and appreciated the significance of her participation. Attendee Debra Ruh noted in the chat, “This is a historic moment. So proud to see the collaboration. Makes me hopeful for the world. We are stronger together.”

Jamie Lassner, executive director of Friends of Access Israel, a collaborative partner of Access Israel, said, “October 20, 2020, is a date that will be forever be etched in our hearts as a giant step was taken by our sisters and brothers at Access Israel and Manzil, who joined in a united effort to make our globe accessible for all. May their efforts be blessed, inshallah, to serve as a catalyst for global change.”

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