Qatar's positive role in making country more accessible for differently-abled people
With the FIFA World Cup looming right around the corner, it has been noted that the country has taken up a transformation role in making the country more accessible for disabled people.
Playing a key role in this transformation, the Accessibility Forum, launched by the Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy (SC) in 2016, has ensured that wider public infrastructure and other facilities are available for the disabled community.
“The Accessibility Forum ensures that the most important stakeholders in the country, including disabled people, play a direct role in determining how the tournament can leave a legacy for generations to come. We wanted to make sure the World Cup made Qatar more accessible while setting new standards in how to host accessible sporting events,” said Khaled Al Suwaidi, the SC’s Stakeholder Relations Director.
The members of the Accessibility Forum have also worked closely with various organizations including, the hospitality, culture, and transportation sectors to make Qatar more accessible. The committee has kept direct communication with SC and the tournament organizers, resulting in enhancements that will make it easier for disabled people to access key services and sites.
Ikrami Ahmad, a blind member of the Accessibility Forum, spoke of the impact of hosting the tournament on disabled people in Qatar. “There has been a marked difference across the country in recent years,” said Ahmad. “There’s more of an interest in accessibility, regardless of the cost or return on investment. It’s regarded as a human right – and this commitment will be felt by fans visiting Qatar for the World Cup.”
Ahmad added that the Doha Metro helps him lead a more independent life and crowned the metro system as one of the best for blind people in the country. He said floor indicators and audible announcements make it a barrier-free journey for him. Keeping in mind that the progress was accelerated due to the World Cup, Ahmed said the legacy of the tournament is very obvious.
In addition wheelchair athlete Ahmad Al Shahrani also chipped in with his views on the progress he's seen. “We can see greater accessibility in shopping malls, libraries, universities, and hospitals. I would say that 80% of key locations in Qatar are wheelchair accessible – something which benefits disabled people and others,” said Al Shahrani.
Ghanimeh Al Taweel, an accessibility researcher in the country, believes the FIFA World Cup is creating a fundamental shift in the way disability is seen in Qatar. He noted that the accessible infrastructure has led to more disabled people being seen in the community. He states that this meant greater integration and a strong voice in decision-making for the disabled community.
In addition to the obvious changes in the country, the FIFA World Cup will also see new features such as audio descriptive commentary in Arabic during the matches, making it easier for blind and partially sighted fans to have access to enjoy the matches. The service is accessible through a mobile application and will be available at all eight stadiums
Moreover, sensory rooms are also available at different stadiums to make it easier for neuro-divergent fans to watch matches in quieter spaces, equipped with assistive technology and managed by expert staff. The rooms will be installed by the SC and local stakeholders.
“We are aiming to deliver the most accessible version of the FIFA World Cup in history,” added Al Suwaidi. “We are continually working with stakeholders to ensure the entire user journey is barrier-free. We must involve all sectors of society in our activities. We want everyone in Qatar to be a part of the first World Cup in our region.”
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Cover Image: Qatar Airways/HIA