DISABILITY IS NOT INABILITY.
Most people in Dubai, a luxury and business destination city, are immigrants who have discovered the land to be a terrific place to do business and find jobs. Even though Article 16 of the law recognizes and protects the rights of people with disabilities (known as people with determination in the UAE), it is very uncommon to find an immigrant worker who has a physical disability—just 0.25 percent of the 9.1 million immigrants have disabilities. Physically, Mr. Khan Abid is one of these unique individuals.
Mr. Khan Abid, a 40-year-old Pakistani father of four, has spent the last 17 years living in Dubai. Abid is physically small for his size, standing two inches tall and weighing 40 kilos. His hands and arms are stubby, making it extremely difficult to grip anything by himself even with his strong physical attributes.
At no time does Khan allow himself to be held back. He exudes a strong sense of self-worth by leading the charge in whatever endeavor he participates in. I recently had the chance to talk to him about his life, and my first question was, “How did you get the confidence to leave your home country to come work in a foreign land, despite your physical determination?” I asked. “I made a self-promise to make my parents happy and never wish they had a physically normal child instead of me because it was never easy back home while growing up,” he remarked.
His father gave him money to start a business in Dubai in 2007. However, upon arrival, he realized that starting a business was more expensive than he had anticipated and that he needed more time than his visit visa allowed to study the market and economy.
Although he could not find work in Dubai, he persisted in staying a little longer to consider his options. Had he been in a better physical state, people would have advised him to have an open mind about finding work while he planned his business strategy. However, since he did not speak English, he was uncertain what to do next regarding employment. He refused to give up and continued searching for opportunities despite the discouragement.
The night that transformed his life came when he accepted an invitation from some friends to go to a nightclub for the first time. While he was there, a man approached him and offered him a job as a doorman at the club. The man told Khan that his body size was a valuable asset and that he would be paid well for the job. In addition to being a great starting point, Khan was excited about the prospect of working with music, so he gladly accepted the offer.
On his first day as a doorman, Khan felt he could do more than just greet customers with a smile and direct them inside. Even though he struggled with speaking English, he still believed he could entertain the guests. However, on his second day at work, the environment was dull. Without hesitation, he jumped onto the dance floor and began dancing to the music. The audience was so captivated by his performance that they all wanted to dance, tip him, and take pictures with him. From that day on, entertaining the guests became his second job.
“I have always encountered some individuals who try to denigrate me with their words and expressions, but none of them has ever been able to make me doubt who I am,” said Khan. He started landing advertising contracts with major corporations like Coca-Cola and serving as a brand ambassador for some companies. As he had always imagined, the city honored and welcomed him which gave him even more self-confidence. At this point, he managed to find a beautiful wife who was physically healthy and the mother of his four children. She respects and loves him very much.
“People often asked me if I had siblings and if they were like me. This gave me the idea to start a business where I brought two of my cousins from Pakistan with similar physiques and talents and formed a performing group where we use our skills to the fullest.”
Khan is currently the face of one of Dubai’s best hospitality companies, and Mr. Miyagi’s, a well-known bar and restaurant, owned by his cousin. Khan and his cousin are well renowned in Dubai for their extraordinary talent and serve as a source of inspiration for people with disabilities to live limitless lives. “I’m content with my body because it has allowed me to reach places that I otherwise would not have been able to,” Khan stated. “I enjoy watching people’s faces when they are astonished by my abilities, and I always strive to be better than they expect when they see me. Khan looks forward to establishing a skills development school in Pakistan for persons with disabilities.
Conclusively, he encourages people with disabilities (PWDs) in Africa and around the world to think beyond their limitations because the outcomes will satisfy them. He advises them to seek possibilities instead of waiting for assistance and opportunities to present themselves. “Do not be afraid to travel, even if it means going abroad to greener pastures like the other ordinary youths, you might get what you did not get in your comfort zone” he advises.