TRIBUNE NEWS NETWORK
Just days into the world’s biggest sporting event, experts from Qatar Foundation looked at whether Qatar’s goal of hosting the most accessible tournament in history is on track.
A panel discussion at the Host Country Media Centre for the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 in Msheireb Downtown Doha that included Mark Dyer, Accessibility and inclusivity Strategist at the Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy, spoke about feedback the event has received.
Dyer said, “It is not just about going to a match, there are lots of other areas that we needed to provide for. We’ve gone beyond looking at what we provide in the stadiums, and that creates a challenge because the more accessible seats we provide in matches, the more demand we create for us and for the rest of the country in terms of accommodation, transportation, and attractions.
“We are seeing a huge number of people with disabilities going to places like the fan festivals, the Corniche, and other areas. So even if you have come over here to experience the matches, you still have places that can offer you calmness and comfort and you still can feel integrated and that you belong to the experience,” Dyer stressed.
He added: “I feel we are getting pretty close to what we were expected to deliver. We are working closely with many people here to understand any issues, how we can help in the process, and encourage people to share their thoughts on their experience.”
With Qatar Foundation (QF) supporting the delivery of a truly accessible tournament, experts from the organisation reflected on the accessibility efforts and initiatives that QF has established – from its specialised schools such as Renad Academy and Awsaj Academy, to its Ability Friendly Program, sensory rooms, audio-descriptive commentary of matches, the Accessibility Volunteers program, and the Qatar for All accessibility guide.
“What we do as an organisation is unlock potential,” said Nihal Al-Saleh, Program Manager at QF member Earthna, and an accessibility advisor.
“With added access, we have added participation, and this is a benefit not only to people with disabilities, but also for the community as we see the transition in the way we talk about accessibility. It is a journey, and there will be things that come up with we will address as we go along, but it is not the end of the story. It started before the World Cup, but will continue to go beyond that for a fully accessible Qatar – and it will make a great case study for the world,” added Al-Saleh.
The Education City Stadium hosted its first FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 match on Tuesday, providing an opportunity to reflect on how accessible the Education City Fan Experience was for fans attending the game between Denmark and Tunisia.
“We all enjoy football and events in different ways, so it is important to enable people who come from transport hubs and as they come to the Metro and parking areas – making sure they can access the stadium in a safe and comfortable way, whether through tactile areas for those who may need sensory regulation in their way to the stadium, or by checking access from the mobility perspective,” said Brooke Reid, Manager of Engagement and Activation at Education City, Qatar Foundation.
“As things evolve we will upgrade our facilities and soft skills, and we have worked with volunteers to make sure they help people as they come to the stadium,” Reid stressed.