RIYADH (Arabnews): With joy, Ahmed Hakeem holds his brush, starts picking vibrant colors, and then he paints cubic and abstract shapes on an empty canvas.
Hakeem is a 34-year-old Saudi artist who has a mild intellectual disability. Individuals with mild ID are slower in all areas of conceptual development and social and daily living skills.
But Hakeem’s love of art helps him to forget the difficulties he faces as a person with a disability to draw some amazing art pieces. He has not let his disability be an impediment to what he likes doing, which is painting.
Not only that he is good at painting, but he is also an athlete. He is a good swimmer, he plays basketball, he loves running, he has won bronze and silver medals in sports.
He is also good at ping pong, padel, hiking, and loves animals.
During the pandemic, Hakeem unleashed his creative side and started to learn to paint. He enrolled in classes, and he started drawing abstract and cubic art.
His paintings were displayed at Markaz Al-Oun Bazaar, which is a help center and non-profit organization that helps people with intellectual disabilities, and he wants to have his own gallery in the future.
Hakeem, who works at Juffali Heavy Equipment as an assistant, also talked about how hard it is for people with disabilities to find a good job.
“You need to know about the challenges that I am having with the community in general. Most people with disabilities are usually unemployed and don’t have access to powerful governmental aid, but their families have to enroll them in special clubs, and this can be financially stressful to the parents, so there is a lack of community and activities for us,” Hakeem told Arab News.
Nour Hakeem, his sister, said: “Because Hakeem looks normal and is not in a wheelchair, many places we go, they see him as a normal person, and every time we go out, I have to have proof that he is mentally challenged, which is very hard.”
“Even though the plane’s tickets are more expensive than the economy ticket and the discount they give us isn’t that much, so basically we book him a normal economy ticket but hopefully with time this is going to change soon because there is more attention by the authorities on people with disabilities,” she said.
According to APD, the official association of people with disabilities, the percentage of people with disabilities in the Kingdom is 7.1 percent, or 1,445,723 people out of a population 32.94 million. The association is set to organize its efforts and build an integrated institutional system to remove barriers to people with disabilities and empower them to live in society without discrimination.