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RIYADH: Happily, Ahmed Hakeem holds his brush, begins to choose vibrant colors, then paints cubic and abstract shapes on an empty canvas.

Hakeem is a 34-year-old Saudi artist with a mild intellectual disability. People with mild ID are slower in all areas of conceptual development and social and daily living skills.

But Hakeem’s love for art helps him forget the difficulties he faces as a disabled person to draw amazing works of art. He didn’t let his disability get in the way of what he loves to do, which is to paint.

Not only is he good at painting, but he is also an athlete. He is a good swimmer, he plays basketball, he likes to run, he has won bronze and silver medals in sports.

He is also good at table tennis, padel, hiking and loves animals.

During the pandemic, Hakeem unleashed his creative side and started learning to paint. He enrolls in classes and begins to draw abstract and cubic art.

QUICKFACTS

• Hakeem is a 34-year-old Saudi artist with a mild intellectual disability. People with mild ID are slower in all areas of conceptual development and social and daily living skills.

• He didn’t let his disability get in the way of what he loves to do, which is to paint.

• He is also an athlete. He is a good swimmer, he plays basketball, he likes to run, he has won bronze and silver medals in sports.

His paintings have been exhibited 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 explained how difficult it is for people with disabilities to find good jobs.

“You must know the challenges I face with the community in general. Most people with disabilities are generally unemployed and have no access to strong government assistance, but their families have to enroll them in special clubs, and this can be financially stressful for 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 isn’t in a wheelchair, many places we go they see him as a normal person, and every time we go out, I must have proof that he is mentally handicapped, which is very difficult.

“Even though the plane tickets are more expensive than the economy ticket and the discount they give us is not so big, so we reserve a normal economy ticket for him, but I hope that over time, this will change soon as there is more attention by the authorities on people with disabilities,” she said.

According to the APD, the official association of disabled people, the percentage of disabled people in the Kingdom is 7.1%, or 1,445,723 people out of a population of 32.94 million. The association is ready to organize its efforts and build an integrated institutional system to remove barriers for people with disabilities and empower them to live in society without discrimination.