Organisers had made huge strides in the past 12 years, since Qatar’s bid to host the 2022 FIFA World Cup was accepted, to make the country more accessible for disabled people and to put up the best-ever edition of the competition for people with disabilities.
The Accessibility Forum – launched by the Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy (SC) in 2016 – has been at the centre of planning to ensure tournament facilities and wider public infrastructure meet the requirements of the disabled community.
This was also the first time in history when the International Day of Persons with Disabilities, celebrated each year on 3 December, took place during a FIFA World Cup and it was just apt that Qatar was the first country to host the tournament in wintertime.
“The Accessibility Forum ensures that the most important stakeholders in the country, including disabled people, play a direct role in determining how the tournament can leave a legacy for generations to come. We wanted to make sure the World Cup made Qatar more accessible while setting new standards in how to host accessible sporting events,” said Khaled Al Suwaidi, the SC’s Stakeholder Relations Director.
In addition to accessible infrastructure, the 2022 FIFA World Cup introduced a whole new range of new features for the disabled community. For the first time, blind and partially sighted fans will be able to listen to audio descriptive commentary in Arabic at World Cup matches, after the service had already been provided at the 2021 FIFA Arab Cup. Audio descriptive commentary in English has been already in place since Brazil 2014 and Russia 2018 at the FIFA World Cup. The service is accessible through a mobile application and will be available at all eight stadiums.
Sensory rooms will also be offered at different stadiums to provide neuro-divergent fans with the ability to watch matches in a quieter space, equipped with assistive technology and managed by expert staff. The rooms will be installed by the SC and local stakeholders.
“We are aiming to deliver the most accessible version of the FIFA World Cup in history,” added Al Suwaidi. “We are continually working with stakeholders to ensure the entire user journey is barrier-free. It is important we involve all sectors of society in our activities. We want everyone in Qatar to be a part of the first World Cup in our region.”
Qatar’s quest for making the FIFA World Cup more accessible for disabled people was also highlighted by the appearance of Ghanim Al Muftah, an accessibility advocate, at the opening ceremony of the competition, where he held a monologue, alongside world-renowned actor, Morgan Freeman.
“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,” said Al Muftah.
“What we have done with the World Cup with regard to accessibility is remarkable. 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,” added the accessibility advocate, who became viral in Qatar and throughout the world.