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Young woman seeks to place Jordan on wheelchair accessibility map

By Camille Dupire - Sep 19,2017 - Last updated at Sep 19,2017

Aya Aghabi poses for a photo at Amman Citadel recently (Photo courtesy of Aya Aghabi)

AMMAN — Coming to the realisation that people with disabilities in Jordan could not enjoy a daily life of entertainment as they wish to, Aya Aghabi took the matter into her own hands and created “AccessibleJordan.com”.

“I realised that, whether they have a mobility impairment, a baby to push around in a stroller, or simply people with moving difficulties, people tend to cancel their plans because they know they won’t be able to access their destination because of stairs or the lack of ramps and elevators,” the 26-year-old told The Jordan Times on Monday.

Jordan, the country she “always loved and that offered her so many options for fun, exploration and adventure” could no longer do so the second she sat in a wheelchair. 

“In the summer of 2009, I was in a car accident in Amman that left me with a spinal cord injury and, as a result, a physical disability,” Aghabi explained. 

A year later, the young woman went on to study in the US, which she described as “much easier” to live in for a person with a physical disability compared to Jordan. 

“When I wanted to go out with friends, I knew that all public transportation was accessible for people with mobility impairment and any information about the accessibility of places could be found in seconds online without any hassle,” Aghabi recalled.

However, as she returned to Jordan, the lack of infrastructure for people with disability dawned on her. “I was jealous of all the resources and support people with disabilities had in the US that lacked in Jordan. Over there, simple things like ramps on sidewalks allowed me to live my life independently and navigate through the city without the need of any assistance,” she explained.

Determined to continue living her life as normally as any other 26-year-old, Aghabi made it a point not to let a wheelchair redefine who she was. “I am a very outgoing and adventurous person; I love going out and discovering new places,” she said, always smiling. 

She then decided to create “Accessible Jordan”, an online guide to all places accessible around Amman and other tourist destinations in Jordan.

“I love Jordan and I have pride in being Jordanian,” the young woman explained, noting that she enjoys exploring her country and advertising it to every non-Jordanian she can. 

Listing all the accessibility-friendly spots across the Kingdom under the categories “Food & Drinks”, “Art & Culture”, “Tourist Attractions”, Aghabi makes it easier for any person with disabilities in Jordan to enjoy their daily lives like anyone else.

The website comprises detailed information on the level of accessibility of each place, including those which only have a few steps to climb. “I am the kind of person who doesn’t mind asking for a little assistance when entering a place,” the young woman explained, adding that she often goes to places which are not equipped for people with disabilities, hoping that, “maybe it will push them to install a ramp later on”.

Encouraging people to pay more attention to accessibility resources present in the places they visit daily, Aghabi voiced her hope that her website would be the first in many steps to raise awareness about the lack of accessibility in Jordan. 

As she just returned from a trip to the Amman Citadel over the weekend, she explained: “I want to show people it is possible to visit these tourist places like anyone else. The government is trying its best to do something but we all need to do our part too.”

 

“It is very difficult to find places that are equipped and accessible around the country but, when you do, it’s like winning a prize!” she explained with an overwhelming enthusiasm, already citing a flourishing number of ideas for the future, including an app listing the wheelchair-friendly spots across the country.

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Comments

There are many community service organizations, such as the Boy and Girl Scouts, who are always looking for service project opportunities. If it isn't included already, it could be useful to include a section listing businesses and sites that would like to improve their accessibility who would be interested in having volunteers help them. Great work in making such an important contribution in this area.

We are proud of you, Aya. Keep it up and go for it! We need more like you!

Congratulations Aya!!! One of the young world changers so desperately needed in Jordan! Thank you for your wisdom, courage, & determination, that I'm sure will grow as you mature.

It is amazing step forward hopefully this idea will get the attention of authorities and people

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