Accessibility improvements in Qatar and the areas where the nation must look to improve ahead of the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 were in the spotlight during a talk at Qatar Foundation’s (QF) Education City.
Representatives from the Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy ( SC) and Qatar Social and Cultural Centre for the Blind (QSCCB) discussed the accessibility services which will be available during the tournament.
It highlighted the accessibility leap Qatar has achieved over the past 10 years in terms of staff training, equipment, transportation, and accommodation, and what services will be offered to ensure all fans enjoy matches regardless of their abilities while also hearing from the audience about steps to be taken to make the tournament and the nation more accessible.
“We worked with different stakeholders and partners to ensure an all-round accessible experience for a vast volume of people with disabilities coming to Qatar to attend the games,” said accessibility and inclusivity design adviser Mark Dyer, a programme management consultant at SC.
Dyer pointed to transportation and accommodation as areas where accessibility in Qatar has made significant advances. Qatar, he said, had only three low-floor buses eight years ago, with that number having reached 858 today, while the number of hotels offering accessible rooms has increased from five to 70.
He also explained about ways to support spectators with disabilities in reaching key locations – such as by covering the distance from Metro stations to stadiums - sprinter vans with wheelchair spaces, accessible golf buggies and taxis will be available during the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022. Stadiums will have various accessible services available, from buggy services for mobility, different types of accessible seating, changing place toilets, audio descriptive commentary, accessible concession counters and sensory rooms.
“I believe that hosting the World Cup can be a catalyst for change. It changes the infrastructure, it changes attitude, the way we communicate, and the way we work with the community, and this is not the end – it should be just the beginning.”
Faisal Mohamed al-Kooheji, chairman, QSCCB, and a disability-rights activist, shed light on prominent events that kickstarted Qatar’s rehearsals for accessibility during the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 - hosting the 2015 IPC Athletics World Championships in Doha, and establishing the Accessibility Forum.
“The forum allowed civil institutions like QSCCB and many other centres that represent individuals with disabilities to discuss the most significant challenges people with disabilities could face during the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 and share their insight on finding solutions,” said al-Kooheji.
He also explained the pros and cons of platforms based on impressions and feedback from visually impaired users when using the FIFA portal for ticket booking and Qatar’s Hayya portal.
Another concern raised during the event related to the application used to scan electronic tickets at the gates and its incompatibility with screen reading programmes, which represents a challenge for visually impaired users to use it without the need for support.
The event explained that one of the services offered at the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 is the audio description application that allows visually impaired fans to follow the games in detail and spectators’ reactions. Similar services usually require a device the fan can carry; however, for the forthcoming tournament, the service only requires users to connect to the WiFi network available at all stadiums and downloading the application on their mobile phone to enjoy the game.
Al-Kooheji believes Qatar has built a legacy around accessibility that will continue to develop and benefit people with disabilities after the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022.