The government of the UAE recognizes the need to support students with special needs. In November 2006, the UAE signed the optional Protocol to the United Nations (UN) Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and Federal Law 29/2006 guarantees rights for people with special needs. Vocational and rehabilitation centers have been developed throughout the country. In addition, efforts are made to include special needs students in mainstream educational settings. The UAE also participates in the Special Olympics.
The UAE Federal Government passed the UAE Disability Act to protect the rights of people with disabilities and special needs. This law requires that UAE nationals with special needs have the same rights to work and occupy public positions, have special facilities at airport and hotels, have access to public vehicles and parking, have equitable access and facilities into all new property development projects, etc.
In the education side, the UAE Disability Act requires:
- Public and private schools must provide equal access to all children.
- No school in the UAE can refuse the admission of a child with special needs (SN).
- Teachers and therapists working with SN students must have a university degree recognized by the Ministry of Higher Education & Scientific Research (MOHESR), and a teaching permit issued by the Ministry of Education (MOE).
- Schools must not hold back or fail students with special needs.
- Schools must receive the approval of the MOE to charge extra fees to parents for any special education services after.
- The Ministry of Education (MOE) strategy is to adapt public schools to facilitate special needs education. The MOE has already converted 10 schools, and plans to improve more than 100 schools by 2013.
- The Ministry of Higher Education & Scientific Research (MOHESR) requires that all instruments, machines and equipment expenses needed by its sponsored-students with special needs pertaining to their educational shall be borne by the Ministry according to their health status as per certified original documents from the health authorities and authenticated by the Cultural Counselor in Washington, DC.
Today, there are many schools proving education for students with special needs. They are non-governmental and at the same time there are special needs schools for the local population receiving government assistance. The list below includes some special needs schools sorted by Emirate:
- Al Noor Speech, Hearing and Development Centre
- Future Centre
- Riding for the Physically / Mentally Impaired
In addition, a partnership between the government of Abu Dhabi and the New England Center for Children, a Massachusetts school serving children with autism, established a comprehensive education program as well as trains UAE nationals to provide services in Arabic.
- Al Noor Training Centre for Children with Special Needs
- Dubai Autism Center
- Dubai Centre for Special Needs
- Dubai Community Health Centre
- Dubai Early Child Development Centre
- St. Andrews International School (British Institute for learning Development)
- Riding for the Physically Challenged
- Rashid Paediatric Therapy Centre
- The Art of Family Consultations Center
- ABA Center for Special Needs
- ABA Center for Special Needs