Fostering a more Accessible Qatar

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AngelPolacco

Disability is prevalent in about ten percent of the world’s population. Qatar has a total population of about 2.17 million people, and of that total, less than 0.5 percent are disabled. According to Hukoomi, Qatar’s e-Government website, there are more Qataris with disabilities than non-Qataris as “expatriate workers are medically fit.”

In most societies, people who have disabilities tend to be ostracized as they don’t fit under the ascribed societal “norms”. Qatar is attempting to address and tackle this issue head-on with the introduction of a revolutionary application that aims to cultivate and further support the inclusion of the disabled community within the larger society.



An inclusive community



Accessible Qatar is an application created by Sasol under its Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) initiative called “Definitely Able”. The concept for the initiative grew out of an engaging session called “Finding the Accessible Doha” held during the Definitely Able Conference in March 2015, where disabled individuals from around Qatar, the region, and the world discussed inclusion for people with disability as full members of society.

The app was officially launched on June 1, 2016 at an exclusive event held at Katara Cultural Village. The main feature of Accessible Qatar is to be able to provide instant and reliable information to people with disability about accessible public locations and tourist attractions around the country. 

“Through the combination of expertly-audited data with user-submitted reviews and ratings, Accessible Qatar enables the disabled community and tourists the confidence to visit different accessible destinations,” said Jack Saba, General Manager of Public Affairs at Sasol.

Sasol's vision

Sasol, originally a South African organization that gives back to the community, is an international integrated chemicals and energy company that supports and provides technologies in 33 countries around the world. 

Sasol pioneered Accessible Qatar in an effort to hold true to its values in empowering and supporting the disabled community, as well as working towards incorporating them as full members of society.

“When Sasol started operating their office in Qatar in the year 2007, they continued the legacy passed on from South Africa,” Saba said. “Ever since the establishment of the “Definitely Able” CSR initiative in the year 2012, Sasol was able to empower the local disabled community in Qatar in finding their place in society through the use of sports, art, music and education.”



Accessible locations



The app lists several different locations around Qatar that are easily accessible for people who have disabilities, some of these include Intercontinental Doha The City, Lagoona Mall, and IKEA.

“The initial phase of the project focused on venues/attractions that would be instantly recognizable for both tourists and residents alike,” said Saba. “The majority of tourist venues, five-star hotel accommodation, and parks have been audited so far with many more programmed in for the near future.” 

Seeing as there’s a lack of information about accessible locations and venues around Qatar, a number of people from the disabled community have expressed their disappointment on how there aren’t any resources they can refer to. This resulted in Sasol’s development and creation of Accessible Qatar, in order to provide a helpful resource that the local society and tourists can use to identify what locations around the country are accessible and to what extent. 

“Following the legacy of our mother hub in South Africa, Sasol has always believed in the power that the disabled community has and through empowering these individuals we will contribute in promoting an inclusive society, in line with the Qatar National Vision 2030,” said Saba. 



User-friendly features



There are a number of great features that the app and website have developed. They are tailored to five disabilities: wheelchair users, mobility impaired, visually impaired, hearing impaired and learning difficulties. 

Sasol worked closely with a number of individuals who have disability as well as organizations such as Mada, the Qatar Social and Cultural Center for the Blind, and the Qatari Center of Social Cultural for the Deaf, in order to test and make sure that the app could be used easily and efficiently. 

“There are 50 locations which range from the tourism sector to sports sector that have been audited by an expert in the field of accessibility. In addition, there are several, crowd-sourced user submitted ratings and reviews,” Saba said. 

Accessible Qatar also has a section that shows the detailed information about services that the disabled community would need in their daily lives, such as audio description, transportation, eAccessibility, and sign language interpretation.



Inspiring more accessibility



In order to raise more awareness about disability and different methods of accessibility, Sasol is in the process of organizing the Accessible Qatar Conference and Accessible Qatar Awards Ceremony, which will take place in May 2017. 

“The two-day conference will consist of various sessions, where high-profile representatives from different sectors of society will shed light on the concept of accessibility,” said Saba. “The awards ceremony will recognize the best accessible venue from various sectors of the economy.” 

With the conference and awards ceremony, Sasol hopes to inspire more venues to make the necessary modifications in support of accessibility for all people visiting their location.



Positive reception



The reception of the Accessible Qatar app has been positive so far. Members of the disabled community have found the app useful and resourceful, particularly in terms of its features and efficient user interface. 

The application and website have two different types of information. There is expertly audited data that was put together by a specialist, as well as user submitted reviews and ratings which are helpful in allowing individuals to come to a final decision about the accessibility of venues.

Aligning with Qatar’s National Vision 2030



Sasol has initiated a number of different workshops for officials from various ministries and organizations in Doha, which include the Ministry of Public Health and Qatar Petroleum, in order to raise more awareness about the importance of accessibility. Audits will also be conducted in the health and education sectors in order to find more venues with accessibility.

In an attempt to move forward and align itself with the Qatar National Vision 2030 and promote inclusion of the disabled community, Sasol has partnered with Project Qatar to highlight the urgency of accessibility.

Qatar, with the help of Sasol, is making a huge effort in moving towards making the community a more accessible one. With the amount of awareness that will be raised and information that will be shared at both the Accessible Qatar Conference and Accessible Qatar Awards (which will be held from May 8-9, 2017), the nation is already progressing in promoting the inclusion of the disabled community as a part of the larger society.



You can download the Accessible Qatar application on the Apple, Windows, and Google app stores today! Visit www.accessibleqatar.com to learn more about their initiatives!

What do you think about Qatar’s efforts in improving accessibility? Comment below!