Ghanim Al Muftah: We have delivered the most accessible World Cup ever
This is the first time that International Day of Persons with Disabilities falls during a FIFA World Cup™. For accessibility advocate Ghanim Al Muftah, the day arrives at the culmination of a dream – seeing his home city Al Wakrah host World Cup matches.
Twenty-year-old Al Muftah has become a well-known public figure in Qatar. A wheelchair user all his life, Al Muftah is currently pursuing a degree in political science at Loughborough University in the UK and has ambitions to represent Qatar as a diplomat in future. He is also a FIFA World Cup™ Ambassador – and proud to be representing his country on the global stage.
He said: “It’s been such an amazing tournament so far. Attending World Cup matches in Al Wakrah is a dream come true for all of us. The people of Al Wakrah are incredibly proud to be playing their part in this tournament.”
In 2016, the Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy established the Accessibility Forum, a platform for disabled people and organisations to discuss how tournament preparations could be leveraged to create a more accessible society. Through the forum, work was carried out to ensure accessibility was improved across all touchpoints of the fan journey, including transportation, access to stadiums and cultural sites.
“What we have done with the World Cup with regards to accessibility is remarkable,” said Al Muftah. “We involved disabled people early on in the planning process and ensured they had a voice in identifying what was important to them. As a result of this inclusive community approach, Qatar 2022 is delivering a truly accessible fan experience and will leave a strong legacy for the future.”
The tournament itself has introduced a number of innovative accessibility features. Blind and partially sighted fans are able to access a dedicated audio descriptive commentary stream in Arabic for the first time. Additionally, sensory rooms for neuro-divergent fans are being hosted across three stadiums and in different fan zones – the largest availability of such facilities at a mega sporting event.
Al Muftah said: “I wanted the World Cup to showcase the richness of our culture but also show the world that we are able to organise an event that is accessible for everyone, a tournament that will leave a legacy for generations to come, and I am proud to say that is exactly what we’ve achieved.”
He continued: “Disabled people have the right to access spaces and services in society. This includes the right to enjoy World Cup matches and have access to entertainment areas and fan zones. Seeing disabled fans in the stands reinforces the importance of accessibility and contributes to changing the way people perceive our contributions to society.
“Creating accessible fan experiences means building the necessary infrastructure and this creates an important legacy for the host country, not only with regards to infrastructure, but also, when it comes to building expertise to host accessible events in the future.”