Qatar aims to host the most accessible FIFA World Cup™ in tournament history
More than one million visitors are expected to flock to Qatar when it hosts the FIFA World Cup™ in 2022 – and in preparation for the tournament, organisers are committed to ensuring that fans with disabilities enjoy an accessible and barrier-free experience.
Speaking to mark International Day of Persons with Disabilities on 3 December, H.E. Hassan Al Thawadi, Secretary General of the Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy (SC), said providing an accessible experience for all fans is a core commitment for tournament organisers.
“Ever since we began working on hosting the first edition of the World Cup in the Middle East and Arab world, we have made a commitment to ensure that all touch points of the fan experience meet FIFA’s Accessibility Requirements and are accessible to fans with disabilities,” said Al Thawadi.
“This includes accessible stadiums, transportation networks, accommodation, fan zones, and all other aspects of what will truly be an amazing experience for all.”
The SC launched its Accessibility Forum in 2015 to consult local stakeholders and people with disabilities. The forum’s objective is to deliver a barrier-free fan experience for all and support FIFA, Q22 and SC towards providing equal opportunities towards an inclusive and accessible environment. In addition, the community platform enables people with disabilities to be active participants in setting priorities and testing the accessibility of various components of the fan experience, including tournament venues.
The forum recently organised a visit to the Qatar 2022 stadium in Al Rayyan, which will be inaugurated when it hosts the Amir Cup final between Al Sadd and Al Arabi on 18 December. During the visit, forum members toured the stadium’s accessibility features, including the seating, bathrooms, changing rooms, concession stands and emergency exits. In addition to testing, forum members met the venue team to discuss potential areas of improvement.
Additionally, the SC has installed sensory rooms in multiple stadiums to create accessible experiences for fans with autism. The rooms are equipped with noise cancellation, soft furnishings, mood lighting, relaxing music and brightly coloured sensory toys and equipment. These features are designed to manage a person's anxiety and allow them, as well as their families and friends, to watch football matches in a welcoming, calming and inclusive environment. They are set to be available in the upcoming FIFA Club World Cup Qatar 2020™.
Mark Dyer, the SC’s Access & Inclusivity Strategist, said: “We are proud of our collaborative efforts with FIFA and Q22 towards including people with disabilities at every step of the process to prepare for the tournament which is key to ensuring that stadiums and other key facilities are tried and tested by those who will use them. We believe in the principle of ‘nothing about us, without us’ and that is central to all of our work.”
Dyer also spoke of the importance of building an accessible ecosystem that goes beyond the accessibility of stadiums.
“Through the Accessibility Forum, we are able to engage those key stakeholders in the country that are responsible for some of the most important touchpoints of the user journey when fans with disabilities come to Qatar for the FIFA World Cup,” he added.
Some of the key accessibility features that fans will enjoy during Qatar 2022 include barrier-free stops of the Doha Metro network, inclusive accommodation options and barrier free entry to key tourist destinations.
Looking to the future, Al Thawadi concluded his message by saying: “People with disabilities will be some of the most important beneficiaries of the legacy left behind by Qatar 2022. The transformation which Qatar’s infrastructure has witnessed to host this tournament will, without a doubt, mean a more accessible country for everyone to thrive in and enjoy.”