3 Facts about Disabilities & Inclusion We Learned from Youth in the Arab Region

September 25, 2022

Accounting for more than 200 million youth around the world, youth with disabilities remain at the margin when it comes to socio-economic inclusion. Lower access to education and decent employability, basic health services, and decision-making shape the reality of the lives of millions around the world, including young people in the Arab states region.   

On 11 August 2022, Youth Development Delegates supported by the UNDP’s Regional Youth Project in the Arab States and in partnership with the Arab Youth Center commemorated the International Youth Day by organizing a webinar on “Leaving no one behind: Inclusion for Generations to come”.  

The webinar celebrated youth and their efforts in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals and delved into exploring the potential of using technology in harnessing empowerment opportunities for youth with disabilities. With panelists of various generations, the webinar spotlighted the importance of cross-generational dialogue and learning.   

100 youth from the Arab States region attended the event, and 1000 were reached through Facebook live streaming.  

Here are the key insights from our speakers:

1- Disability is not a medical condition; it is a human rights concern:   

The fact that our world is still unable to accommodate the needs of people with disabilities is not a result of their physical condition, said Ahmad Hamdy, a young policy and Partnership Associate at UNDP Egypt:  

“Our surroundings define our capabilities and condition as ‘inability’..” Only by changing people’s mentalities can we push forward for more serious and effective changes at the policy and infrastructure levels. A starting point is to make the concept clearer: disability is not a medical condition; it is an issue of mentalities ” 

The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities asserts that any restriction or exclusion that takes place based on disability and that has the purpose or effect of impairing the recognition and exercise of all human rights and freedoms is a discrimination that violates the universality, indivisibility, and interdependence of all human rights. Thus, disability should be seen as a human rights issue.

2- If work does not come to you, create one for yourself 

As youth with disabilities transition into adulthood, it becomes harder for them to secure decent, long-term formal employment. The general perception of people with disabilities as “un-employable” often limits them to unregistered, and lower-waged sectors. Even when they do find a job, it is not guaranteed that the receptive structure would provide the necessary means to allow them to excel. 

Technology can be one way to help young people with disabilities start their own income-generating projects and empower themselves and others around them. Yasser Wardeh, a 27-year-old Syrian photographer did just that! 

Yasser started his professional journey through “Mukhayyam Al Ashrah,” a UNDP Syria country office initiative that provided youth from all over the country with a training on professional photography and digital marketing. This training inspired Yasser to change his career to professional photography, establish a small business and volunteer at “Dal platform” where youth provide free digital-marketing services to women owners of small businesses.   

Yasser explains that more digital educational content in Arabic should be created so that youth in the region can benefit from digital opportunities.  

3- Educational Empowerment: Youth with disabilities surpassing inaccessibility 

While many young people with disabilities struggle to access education, succeeding in the educational realm is possible within the right conditions, as the inspiring stories of Lina, Batoul and Fadia tell us.   

Mother to a daughter with a disability, Lina Abu-Samha dedicated herself to raising awareness about disability through creative writing and her project ‘The World of Miryana”. For Lina, technology can be the asset we need to provide better education to people with disabilities:  

“Technology can provide learner-centered education; teachers can use it to make obtaining education easy for people with disabilities. Still, we shouldn't forget that the online world can isolate learners in the virtual sphere. A hybrid educational approach must be adopted into educational structures.”   

Batoul Al-Muhaisin, founder of the “Be Creative Project,” shared how hard it was for her to find the right school as a child. Batoul recalled the efforts made by her school to adapt the educational infrastructure to respond to her needs. Now, Batoul is a human rights activist for people with disabilities and an awareness content creator who believes that the digital sphere can be an outlet for people with disabilities:  

“Technology can be a great platform for youth with disabilities. When invested in appropriately, it could enable youth to tell the world that we exist and that we have skills and abilities worth showcasing”   

The youngest panelist of the webinar was Fadia Mustafa, a 16-year-old Lebanese girl who ranked 30th nationally for her 9th-grade exams. We want to conclude with her message to all youth across the region: 

“Believe in your dreams and do not mind people’s opinions. As long as we have a strong will, our dreams will come true.”  



Youth Development Delegates in the Arab Region is a joint initiative between UNDP and AYC, which empowers young people to work with UNDP across 13 countries to promote youth inclusion in development. The webinar is part of a series of discussions where the Youth Delegates open the floor for discussion around issues of timely concern to the youth of the region. Moderation was ensured by Lamia Khayrat, the Youth Development Delegate at UNDP Egypt.