Accessibility takes centre stage as countdown to Qatar 2022 continues
With only two weeks to go until the big kick-off, FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022™ organisers held a special event to showcase the accessibility features of the tournament. Members of the disabled community and senior leadership from the Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy (SC) and FIFA took part in the forum, which was held at the Multaqa student centre at Qatar Foundation (QF) and outlined how accessibility has featured centrally in World Cup preparations.
Qatar 2022 will feature a number of firsts for disabled fans, including the availability of audio descriptive commentary in Arabic at all matches. Three stadiums will host sensory rooms for fans with sensory access requirements, while every match venue was built to exacting accessibility standards, including accessible parking, seating, bathrooms and concession stands.
The SC has worked in partnership with FIFA and the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 LLC to prioritise accessibility throughout tournament preparations, in line with the FIFA Sustainability Strategy. The SC launched the Accessibility Forum in 2016, with members playing an active role in providing feedback on the SC’s infrastructure projects, working towards meeting FIFA Accessibility and inclusive design standards while helping to drive the accessibility agenda in Qatar.
“From the very beginning of our journey to host this historic tournament, our commitment to accessibility has been unwavering. Not only did we work diligently to see that stadiums and tournament sites met the highest accessibility standards, we also actively involved the disabled community to make sure the World Cup creates a lasting legacy for the disabled community beyond Qatar 2022,” said H.E. Hassan Al Thawadi, Secretary General, SC.
“As a result of our work, we now see a marked improvement in the environment for disabled people to access transportation, cultural sites and public spaces across the country. I am very proud of this legacy and look forward to the community building on these gains in the future. For fans attending the tournament, they will experience a number of accessibility features to ensure everyone feels a part of the first FIFA World Cup in the Middle East and Arab world,” added Al Thawadi.
As well as being available to fans in the stands, audio descriptive commentary will also be accessible to fans across the globe in Arabic and English via a dedicated mobile application. Sensory rooms will be operational at Al Bayt, Lusail and Education City during the tournament – allowing fans to watch matches in a quieter space, equipped with assistive technology and managed by expert staff. This will be the largest deployment of sensory rooms at a mega sporting event in history.
“At FIFA, our goal is to provide inclusive and accessible infrastructure services for all fans, including disabled fans and fans with limited mobility. For the last few years, we have been working with the SC to ensure that all new FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 stadiums and training sites are accessible for disabled people and people with limited mobility. FIFA’s accessibility requirements were an integral part of the planning process,” said FIFA President, Gianni Infantino.
He continued: “Thanks to the SC, accessibility will go beyond tournament sites and events and will be delivered across all physical infrastructure, public transport and services in Qatar. The wide range of infrastructure, transportation and services enhancements that are being implemented for the FIFA World Cup 2022 will provide a strong legacy of greater accessibility and inclusiveness for many years after the completion of the tournament.”
Faisal Al Kohaji, Accessibility Forum member and Chairperson of the Qatar Social Cultural Club for the Blind, said the tournament’s accessible legacy had been felt long before the opening match at Al Bayt Stadium on 20 November.
“What we have seen in the area of accessibility since Qatar won the rights to host the World Cup has been life-changing for the disabled community. We now have a modern transportation network that is equipped for all different needs, as well as greater accessibility in museums, shopping destinations and public spaces,” said Al Kohaji.
“But perhaps the greatest benefit of all will be the way the World Cup has elevated the representation of the disabled community in public spheres. By creating accessible spaces, we will see more disabled people in society, thereby reaffirming the notion that disabled people play a vital role in the growth of our communities,” added Al Kohaji.
“QF has made accessibility and inclusion a priority within our schools and programmes since its inception, and our contribution to the commitment the country has made for Qatar 2022 to be the most accessible World Cup ever reflects this,” said Alexandra Chalat, Director of World Cup Legacy, QF.
“We are harnessing our ecosystem to support the accessibility goals of Qatar as it welcomes the world, through programmes and initiatives that break down social and sporting barriers. From training FIFA volunteers on accessible practices and services, through to offering audio description for the World Cup’s opening and closing ceremonies, to designing the sensory room at Education City Stadium and sensory havens to be used within World Cup activations, to developing an Accessibility Guide for visitors and residents alike, QF is helping to ensure this is a celebration of sport that can be enjoyed by all.
“These efforts do not end with the final whistle. The work we have done aims to make a long-term impact, from programmes to facilities infrastructure to raising awareness, ensuring Qatar 2022 leaves a lasting legacy that stretches far beyond sport, and brings enduring societal value through empowerment, involvement and inclusion.”