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Posted On: 30 March 2015 05:47 am
Updated On: 12 November 2020 02:15 pm

Definitely Able Conference and ILHAM Art Exhibition Leave Legacy of Hope and Practical Ideas for Inclusion of Disabled People

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Representatives from education, accessibility and technology brought innovative thinking and challenging ideas to the table last week at the Definitely Able Conference in Qatar, presented by Sasol and the British Council, in partnership with Qatar Museums. More than 200 people from across society in Qatar and around the world attended the ground-breaking event over two days, held under the patronage of Her Excellency Sheikha Al Mayassa bint Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani, Chairperson of Qatar Museums. The accompanying ILHAM Art Exhibition wrapped up a 10-day run at the Museum of Islamic Art over the weekend.


Definitely Able Conference host and disability champion Simon Minty said of the event: “We need to talk less about ‘special’ and more about ‘definitely able.’ Before something becomes a non-issue it must be made an issue. That’s what this conference has done for disability in the region.” He encouraged stakeholders in the community to keep improving, and not to worry about getting things right the first time.

The conference highlighted experience over theory, via contributions from experts in Qatar, the region and around the world who represent the public and private sector as well as civil society organisations. Strategic partners of the event included Qatar Museums, Museum of Islamic Art, UCL Qatar as well as support from the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs, Supreme Education Council, Qatar University, Mada Qatar Assistive Technology Center, UNESCO Doha Office, ORYX GTL, Al Noor Institute for the Blind and Audio Education Complex.

Commenting after the conference, Marjo Louw, President of Sasol Qatar, said: “We believe that the conversation about inclusion for disabled people has now started in earnest. We thank the many participants from Qatar government and civil society organisations including the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs, Supreme Education Council and others that took the time to be with us during the conference. Pairing their perspective with the experience from the international speakers resulted in a rich dialogue that lays out many areas and opportunities for collaborative work in the future towards inclusion for all.”

The final day of the conference began with a session on education led by Prof. Dr. Georges Tamer, Chair of Oriental Philology and Islamic Studies at the Friedrich-Alexander-University Erlangen-Nuremberg. He relayed his experience as a young man who had to leave his home country of Lebanon to study in Germany because it was inaccessible. Other sessions covered art as a vehicle to change perceptions, accessible museums and galleries and finally, a session titled “Finding the accessible Doha.”

In closing, panelists expressed their hopes for the legacy of the Definitely Able Conference one year on. The artists, scholars and government representatives each provided their visions for the conference’s legacy, from having more disabled adults as visible role models to disabled children in the community, the enactment of policies that help increase access to assistive technology, and the start of a change in perception of disability in society.

The ILHAM Art Exhibition saw hundreds of visitors come to appreciate works of art from seven disabled artists since its opening to the public on 18th March. Inspired by the collection of the Museum of Islamic Art, the pieces were on display to all visitors. School groups, including the Al Ruqayya Preparatory came to see the art and hear about the artists who created the works as a means of demonstrating the abilities of persons with disabilities. MIA trainers helped visiting students create new art works that they were able to take home as a memory of their visit.

British Council Qatar Director Martin Hope commented on the successful event by saying: “We received fantastic response to the conference and exhibition, with people coming from all walks of life to see the art created by the disabled artists. It is not disabled art, however, it is art inspired by the MIA collection and the experiences of the talented artists who created them. British Council is pleased to have worked with partners across society to make this ground breaking event a possibility. We will continue to work on the issue of inclusion via cultural understanding and keep the conversation going long after the closing.”

In all, the conference featured more than 50 speakers across eight sessions in two days. Along with the many ideas and concepts shared, tangible and lasting gestures were made toward increasing inclusion for disabled people in Qatar. During a brief ceremony on Day Two of the conference, ORYX GTL announced the donation of 10 specially equipped buses to Shafallah Centre to enable mobility for disabled students to travel from their homes to the school.

The conference was offered via live stream to those who were unable to attend the sessions at the Museum of Islamic Art. Archives of the sessions are available via the Definitely Able website ( Continue the discussion on Twitter by following @definitelyable and @qabritish.