By Mudassir Raja
Sasol, an international integrated chemicals and energy company, and the Parks Department of the Ministry of Municipality and Environment yesterday opened the first inclusive playground in the region with special facilities for children with disabilities: Al Legtaifiya Park.
The project was completed under the patronage of HE Mohamed bin Abdullah al-Rumaihi, the Minister of Municipality and Environment.
The playground is called inclusive as it features, besides playing facilities for all, modified playground equipment including a slide and a swing for wheelchair users. The playground aims at opening a new frontier for accessibility in Qatar and providing an opportunity to children of all ages and abilities to play together.
The inauguration ceremony was attended by Sasol joint CEOs Stephen Cornell and Bongani Nqwababa; Professor Shirish Soni, ambassador of South Africa to Qatar; a representative of the Ministry of Municipality and Environment; Accessible Qatar ambassadors; children from Al Shafallah Center; and adults and children with mobility impairment.
All the people were given the opportunity to experience the park. They had a first-hand experience of the inclusive playground after the inauguration.
People attending the inaugural ceremony appreciated the idea of having an inclusive play ground in a park where people from all ages will come.
A special demonstration of wheelchair fencing contest was also presented. Wheelchair fencing is one of the inclusive sports that are being supported by Accessible Qatar initiative. There is also a swing that children can use with their wheelchairs.
In the fencing demonstration, two boys in wheelchairs fought with their fences. An expert explained to the audience that during the fencing match, a special dress is used and a player cannot hurt the other with the sword. A special sensor is embedded into the fencing gear. If a player’s sword touches the dress of the other player, a buzzer rings to declare a point for the successful attacker. The audience enjoyed the fencing skills of the two demonstrators.
In his welcome speech on the occasion, Jack Saba, general manager of public affairs at Sasol Qatar, explained how they conceived the idea of having an inclusive playground.
He said, “We started our initiative to support people with disabilities in 2015. We have been supporting people with disabilities since 2012 when we started the initiative Definitely Able. It was however in 2015 that we saw an article in Qatar telling the story of a child with disability. According to the article, the child would go to a park every day but come back crying as he could not play with other children.”
He added, “We then researched and found that there are good games for children with disabilities and with mobility impairments to play outside. We waited for opening of a new park. We wanted to have the playground in the middle of a park and not on one side. Again in early 2017, there was another article discussing lack of playing facilities for children with disabilities. We are very proud that we have found a solution. We hope that this playground will be a sample for other parks.”
The Inclusive Playground is the latest breakthrough for Accessible Qatar, a Sasol initiative designed to support inclusion and accessibility in the local community. Since the launch of Definitely Able in 2012, Sasol has made continuous achievements in raising awareness and addressing issues of inclusion and empowerment for Qatar’s disabled community.
Speaking at the event, Sasol President and CEO Bongani Nqwababa said: “I love coming to Qatar. There is an energy here, an unrelenting growth and ambition to build for the future. And Sasol is excited to be a part of that growth. But it’s important to look not just at the roads and buildings, and think about the kind of society we are building – and this is the part about Qatar that I love the most. The Qatar National Vision 2030 calls for a ‘vibrant and prosperous country in which there is economic and social justice for all’. This is a call to build a society that cares about, includes, and celebrates the best in all of us.”
He added, “Since the launch of our Definitely Able Conference in South Africa in 2015, Sasol has been dedicated to showcasing accessibility in the local community. We are making strategic investments to lead the conversation and build awareness about the important role that People with Disabilities can have in our communities. This comes from Sasol’s deep belief that to build a strong society, we must include everyone, and exclude no one.”
Parks Department Director Mohammad al-Khoori said: “With partners like Sasol, we are able to break new ground and bring the best global resources to bear in achieving the Qatar National Vision 2030, ensuring a society that welcomes, includes, and promotes people of all abilities.”
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