By Amal Al-Sibai
Disabled in the Kingdom can breathe a sigh of relief as after persistent requests, the Ministry of Social Affairs has drawn a plan to support them; after all they too are an integral part and parcel of our society.
To improve their quality of life by helping them move around to easily fulfill their daily needs, the ministry has decided to provide free cars to the severely disabled. The cars of course will be modified and fully equipped to meet their capabilities.
The Deputy Minister of Care and Social Development Department under the umbrella of the Ministry of Social Affairs, Dr. Abdullah Abdulaziz Al Yousef, announced that the ministry has signed a contract to purchase the cars from an automobile company, Jumaih, that will work on adjustments required by the disabled. Al-Yousef said that the top priority will be given to those with severe or multiple disabilities. Almost 1,000 cars will be given by Jumaih in the next four months according to the first stage of the plan. In the second stage, the ministry is expected to provide another 3,000 cars.
Some changes made to the cars at the factory include adding a wheelchair ramp that lifts the handicapped person into the car, raising the ceiling, and allowing more space inside it. Other advanced tools will also be installed to make the car ride comfortable and easy for the driver or passenger. According to Saleh Al-Omair, the Assistant Deputy Minister of Finance for Budgeting, each car specifically designed for the physically disabled will cost SR120,000.
The primary caregivers of the physically disabled person can apply for a free car through one of the 37 different rehabilitation centers throughout the Kingdom. The person suffering from physical disabilities will be examined by a professional to medically evaluate his condition and determine the degree of need for a specially designed car.
Not only will the ministry give these cars as a gift, but will also follow up with the families to protect the disabled person’s rights and ensure that the car is kept in their possession.
“We want to make sure that the car will remain with those who rightly deserve it - the disabled. The ministry has developed a strategy to prevent the parents or any family member from taking advantage of the free car by selling it, for example. The car must be registered with the traffic police and it cannot be sold or ownership can not be transferred to someone else for the first five years. This will guarantee that the car will fulfill the purpose it was designed for, and that is to ease some of the hardships faced by the physically disabled,” said Al-Yousef.
He explained, “The car is given as a gift to the physically disabled, and the governmental institutions of the Kingdom are responsible for covering the financial expenses of purchasing and remodeling the car. The family will not be burdened with any payments whatsoever. The cars chosen are quite big and can seat eight persons. To receive approval for the free car, the medical condition of the handicapped individual is taken into consideration, as are the social and financial status of the family. The number one concern is for those with total paralysis and severe deformities and who live with low-income families. Next in line are those with partial paralysis and those with mental disabilities.”
The Assistant Deputy Minister of the Care and Social Development Department, Ibrahim Al-Majli, said, “The ministry has opened doors for competition between automobile companies for designing the special cars in the second stage of the plan, and more in the future. Around 20,000 individuals in the Kingdom have severe physical disabilities and meet the criterion stipulated for eligibility of the free cars.”