No one expected Maitha Tariq to become a part of the fashion industry. The 12-year-old girl from Dubai, UAE has severe cerebral palsy and cannot talk, walk, eat on her own, or use her hands. She can, however, use assistive technology such as eye-gaze technology. It turns out that Maitha is very good at it, and due to that fact coupled with her interest in art, she has begun creating bright patterns out of multiple, carefully arranged colors, all placed on the computer screen exactly where she wants them due to her eye movements. These patterns are so well done that they are soon due to be reproduced on fabric by some of the area’s top clothing designers.
Maitha is a student at the Al Noor Training Centre for Children with Special Needs, which boasts over 50 different kinds of assistive technologies and equipment for children who have a variety of challenges to overcome. Shahanaz Mohammed, Maitha’s classroom teacher, has found Maitha to be a very quick learner with a natural talent for art. She believes Maitha can go far in the fashion industry or any other with continued training. Being able to contribute to society at a high level is a goal that is set for all children at Al Noor.
“Our aim is to achieve this shift in perception. We don’t want people to buy goods amateurishly constructed by special needs children out of sympathy,” said Al Noor’s director, Isphana Al Khatib. Instead, the school wants to discover and utilize whatever talents are inside each student because, as Isphana says, they all have one. To that end, the school is holding a special conference in mid-November to exhibit and discuss their assistive technologies and the positive impact they can have on children with disabilities and their families, and their implications for society as a whole. In the meantime, Maitha’s designs will go into production, to be displayed on clothing that will be worn for the January 28, 2016 Al Noor Ladies Luncheon Fashion Show.