A World Cup for all: Qatar Foundation’s accessibility guide

Launched just days before the most-anticipated event locally and internationally, the guide has a special section for the World Cup. 

“Welcome to a Doha for all” – these were the words that Qatar’s Amir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani said at the opening of a regional football tournament in 2019.

The words resonated until the 2022 FIFA World Cup dream became a reality, uniting the entire world. 

Inside Qatar, various entities have doubled their efforts to live up to the country’s identity as an inclusive, open nation for all.

Qatar Foundation (QF) is now reflecting Doha’s commitment to accessibility during the World Cup. Through its newly-launched guide to help persons with disabilities, both residents and visitors will be able to properly experience the country.

The “Qatar for All” guide is available in Arabic, English and in braille versions to better enable everyone to navigate through Doha’s rich cultural, educational, and entertainment experiences.

“The ecosystem in QF is already one that is designed with inclusion in mind. Everyone is able to learn and everyone is able to thrive and develop[…]our offering during the World Cup has been focusing on accessibility,” Nardine Gerges, Project Manager at the Chief Communication Officer Office, told Doha News.

Inspired by the demand for accessibility-specific information, the inclusive guide is built based on the experiences and recommendations of people with disabilities. 

QF’s guide enables users to explore 30 attractions and experiences, saving time and effort for those looking for places suitable for people with disabilities. The guide is also designed for everyone, including the elderly and with children in strollers.

The first of its kind in Qatar, the guide clearly details some of the rich experiences that everyone can partake in; from culture, education to entertainment –- just what World Cup visitors need.

Beyond listing facilities and summarising what visitors can expect, the guide also details how to reach the places and answers key questions about transportation. 

“In Qatar, this is the first time a guide combines all accessible, not all, but a number of accessible experiences that range from cultural experiences all the way to what transportation to take within one place,” said Gerges.

QF spent time focussing on ways to provide a holistic experience for visitors and residents alike; to cater to all abilities. For around two months, QF collected the information before transforming it into a user-friendly guide.

The creation of the guide involved coordination between QF’s tight-knit community and institutions, including the Translation and Interpreting Institute (TII), while communicating with main attractions in Education City.

“When we started calling entities and they understood what we were doing, some of them got inspired to produce or create something during that period [World Cup],” said Gerges.

Gerges noted that the guide takes into account the different user experiences, pointing to the differences among people with the same disability.

“There’s a lot of invisible disabilities that people are not aware of, when you see a person it doesn’t necessarily mean that they are not suffering from something that is considered a disability,” added Gerges.

A World Cup for all

Launched just days before the most-anticipated event locally and internationally, the guide has a special section for the World Cup. 

To provide users with a holistic experience, QF spoke to other entities, including the Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy (SC), Visit Qatar, and Qatar Tourism. 

“We thank Qatar Foundation for developing this important Accessibility Guide, which is sure to continue the conversation about accessibility and build on the legacy of Qatar 2022,” said Yasir Al Jamal, Director General at the SC.

With at least 1.5 million fans currently in Qatar, QF worked on integrating the guide into the fan experience. The guide is also featured on the Hayya application, a key entry portal for visitors and residents to access all things Qatar during the major tournament.

The tournament’s section includes stadium accessibility information; from seats looking towards the pitch, bathrooms, hearing aids, sensory rooms, live audi-descriptive commentary among many others.

With questions on transportation to the stadiums being more common than ever, the guide features details on how to get to each arena, as well as the walking distances.

“From training FIFA Volunteers on accessible practices and services[…]to designing the sensory room at Education City Stadium and Sensory Havens to be used within World Cup activations[…]Qatar Foundation is helping to ensure this is a celebration of sport that can be enjoyed by all,” said Alexandra Chalat, Director of World Cup Legacy at QF.

While the guide is under QF’s commitment to giving back to society and promoting accessibility, the World Cup played a role in being a launching point for starting similar initiatives.

“What I would hope is that the momentum keeps going and that the speed of things that have happened continues, even beyond the World Cup,” said Gerges.

Exploring Qatar’s culture through QF

Qatar is keen to share with the world, and has placed great emphasis on highlighting its traditions and heritage.

Visitors and residents alike are always amazed by the mosques standing on each corner, especially those with the most unique designs, like Education City’s mosque.

As many Muslims visitors are in Qatar for the World Cup, Education City Mosque in the Minaretein building has led efforts in accessibility. 

Embellished in Arabic calligraphy, the mosque has long welcomed everyone, especially during Friday prayers. During the weekly sermon, sign language interpretation is available for worshippers who need it.

And with the Holy Quran being central to the religion, it has shaped the lives of Muslims and countries that follow the faith. The holy book encompasses prophetic stories and messages that teach Muslims how to conduct their lives.

Plants are mentioned in the Quran in almost every chapter, or surah, with at least 20 identified throughout the book. 

Merging Qatar’s environment and Muslim identity, the plants found in the country and the holy book are on display at the Qur’anic Botanic Garden in Education City. The garden carries the message of caring for the environment, both as an Islamic and humanitarian duty..

The botanic garden is accessible by wheelchair, with descriptive signs on each item mentioned in the Quran.

Those wishing to visit it can easily book online through: [email protected]

Learning for all at Education City

Since it opened in 2017, Qatar National Library (QNL) has served as a key learning hub for those curious about Doha’s culture. Featuring more than one million books, including a heritage collection, it ensures that everyone is able to benefit from its numerous resources.

The library features a sensory room for children with learning difficulties, developmental disabilities, or sensory impairments. 

QNL also offers sensory storytelling sessions for children, along with audio books for young readers with visual impairments. This is in addition to online resources, including Bookshare, ABC, Overdrive and Libby.

Adding art to storytelling, the REESHA art exhibition for children’s work, from 13 October to 31 December, includes an audio-descriptive bilingual guide, Arabic braille and high-contrast images for those with visual impairments.

Beyond little bookworms, adults with disabilities can access the Assistive Technology Center, which features adjustable workstations and the latest equipment. 

Such tools include scanning pens with headphones, ergonomic keyboards and mice, braille keyboards and printers, and portable electronic magnifiers.

Adding to the rich, accessible educational experience, Education City’s “Seero Fi Al Ardh” (Walk this Earth) carousel offers an insight into human progress. The piece by the late artist Maqbool Fida Hsain is a 20-minute show all about human development.

Audio-descriptive tours in Arabic are available on 25 November and 10 December, and a tour in English is available on 3 December. All tours commence at 3:30 pm with a pre-show introduction.

The carousel is accessible for wheelchair users, offering a multisensory experience of the show with live audio-description.

QF has also listed different museum experiences for all, opening more doors towards learning, exploration and knowledge – with a key aim of benefitting societies.

“When we start thinking in an inclusive manner, we become a lot more innovative and we start thinking outside the box and then everybody benefits from it, not just the people you are providing for[…]it becomes a ripple effect and societies progress,” said Gerges.

The e-guide will be updated with new information as and when it becomes available, with QF welcoming all suggestions to improve everyone’s experience in Qatar. https://www.qf.org.qa/accessibility-guide.

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