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As part of its Corporate Social Responsibility initiatives, and to ensure the mobility of employees and customers with disabilities within the various buildings and facilities of its operating companies and factories, The Savola Group began implementing the "Universal Accessibility" Project, which will be implemented in several stages. An agreement was signed with Almodon Urban Consultancy on Universal Design and Accessibility, which is the first company in the Arab World to specialize in Accessibility to design the project, which entails supervision, oversight, and management to prepare the Group's buildings and factories to become compliant with international standards for the mobility of persons with physical, visual, and hearing disabilities.
Savola completed the first phase of this project during February this year, under the supervision of MAKEEN Center for Empowering Persons with Disabilities. The first phase of the project included building a series of side slopes in front of the main entrances in a number of Savola operating companies, as well as changing the flooring colors to illustrate the beginning and ending of these slopes. Moreover, the emergency exits have been fully equipped with fences and protective edges on both sides, and a number of parking lots have also been allocated, which are identified using different colors and symbols to indicate that they are for persons with disabilities.
The second phase of the project is expected to be completed at the end of June this year, in which four operating companies have been selected to implement the Universal Accessibility standards for persons with disabilities. They are Afia International Company, Savola Packaging Company located in the Industrial City in Jeddah, Hyper Panda branch at Prince Miteb Street in Jeddah, and the Eng. Adil bin Mohammed Faqieh building, which is the Admin Building of the United Sugar Company in Jeddah Islamic Port. These selected sites will feature the development of parking lots for persons with disabilities, in accordance to international standards, as well as markers on the roads to ensure safe mobility. The slopes will be created in all facilities connected to the buildings, as well as equipping them with private toilets, service facilities, meeting halls and cafeteria, and provide them with the necessary electrical equipment. In addition to that, emergency exits will be allocated in the selected private buildings.
Based on the results of the survey conducted by MAKEEN Center on its trainees (physical, visual, and hearing) during the pilot phase, it was clear that the persons with disabilities do face lots of challenges due to the lack of a well equipped working environment that can facilitate their mobility, including health and office services that were specially designed for people with disabilities.
Dr. Abdulraouf Manna, Group Managing Director of the Savola Group stated, "As a national company, The Savola Group is always on the look for initiatives and key projects that fulfill the needs of Saudi society especially for the persons with disabilities. This is done by adopting international accessibility standards in a number of its facilities to ensure the mobility of this very important segment." Dr. Mannaa added, "I call on other private sector companies to adopt these types of initiatives that serve this very important segment in our society and hope that all of the public facilities become accessibility friendly.
It should be noted that this project is added to the existing projects and programs implemented by Savola Group through the MAKEEN Center, which aims to train and qualify persons with disabilities, and then employ them within The Savola Group and its operating companies in addition to other private sector organizations. The MAKEEN Center launched its pilot phase in 2010, where 100 persons with disabilities were trained and employed in the Group's operating companies during the past year. The second batch graduated in 2011, where 144 persons with disabilities were trained and employed, where 47 of them were employed in various private sector companies. And as part of its initiatives, the Center recently trained a number of Human Resource, Production, Financial and IT Managers within the Group's companies on the "Implementing the Buddy and Mentor" system by European experts and specialists. This initiative aims at enhancing the work environment for people with disabilities of Savola Group and its subsidiaries.