It’s a sunny November day in Qatar, the year is 2022, and Ari Lahiri is excited to attend his first FIFA World Cup™ match in the country where he was born and raised. Qatar Foundation Stadium, in Education City, is his destination. From the moment he left his house, to the moment his wheelchair rolls up the ramp to access the stadium, his fan experience has been seamless.
This is Ari’s dream. It is also the objective of the Accessibility Forum created by the Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy (SC) to make this happen, and in doing so to make the first FIFA World Cup™ in the Middle East the most inclusive yet.
The Forum will work with different stakeholders, the most important one being the community of people with disability. For Ari Lahiri, General Manager of Ibticar, the country’s first fully-accessible limousine service, the main challenges are significant but can also be addressed with simple steps, as he told www.sc.qa.
“The main issues to tackle, in terms of the stadiums, are building ramps that are not too steep and placing the parking spaces for people with disabilities close to the venues.
“Being born and raised in Qatar for me it’s very important to spread awareness about this issue and work to make the World Cup accessible for everyone. I am a football fan and I am very much looking forward to the tournament here.”
The 2022 FIFA World Cup Qatar™ will follow three major tournaments in three different continents that have brought significant improvements in the accessibility of the game for people with disabilities.
As the six year countdown continues, H.E. Hassan Al Thawadi, SC Secretary General, said the objective of the tournament was to be inclusive of everyone.
“Achieving this is a responsibility that we all share,” he said at the launch of the Accessibility Forum in Doha on Tuesday.
He continued: “One of the most important opportunities that the tournament offers is the development of human beings. This is why, in the run up to the event, we want to benefit from the potential of the people with special needs, as well as of the potential from other sectors of society.”
“The World Cup is one of those global international events that entails investments in infrastructure and transport, creating an opportunity to move forward in a positive way. In Qatar, we want to have the urban environment in place to allow a seamless fan experience for everyone. We expect this Forum to be a long-term reference in the field.”
The Accessibility Forum is made up of local people with disabilities, NGO’s and government stakeholders, all invested in creating a more accessible Qatar.
On the occasion of the launch of the Accessibility Forum, a group of Qatari artists with disabilities, directed by Salman Al Marri, wrote and performed a play.
Al Marri explained the idea behind the play, he said: “During the performance we tried to explain why some people with disability are supporting the tournament and some aren’t, and how they could get involved or not depending on their disability.
“The needs of people with disability to host an accessible tournament will be the same as the needs they have in their daily life. We want to encourage the involvement of people with disability, now, during the tournament, and beyond.”
Ahmer Al Kabi, a young Qatari actor who is also visually impaired, said that being on stage for the event was a thrilling experience. “I am very happy to be part of this Forum. I hope to participate every year.
“I think preparations for the tournament in terms of making it accessible are going very well, and being part of this has truly touched my heart.”
*Please note, FIFA is aware of the discussion on terminology related to accessibility. Due to the fact that FIFA is a global institution, the wording in the articles on FIFA.com may relate to the conventions observed in the location of the activity and/or tournament. FIFA, following guidance from the Centre for Access to Football in Europe (CAFE), supports the social model, whereby it is the physical, sensory, intellectual, psychological and attitudinal barriers that cause disability, not impairments. *