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Posted On: 21 June 2013 09:56 am
Updated On: 12 November 2020 02:13 pm

Disabled struggle to access public places in Qatar

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Despite laws and government policies on them, a majority of public places in Qatar are still not accessible to people with disabilities, a seminar was told yesterday. Employment, e-learning and access to digital content are the other major challenges faced by people with special needs, with many arguing that making digital content available was not just about changing websites. “We have to be honest with the fact that the majority of public places in Qatar are not accessible to people with mobility issues, visual impairment and other such cases,” Ahmed Habib, Head of Communications Awareness and Outreach at MADA (Qatar Assistive Technology Centre), told yesterday. He was speaking on the sidelines of a conference on “Towards an accessible society in Qatar” organised by ictQatar in collaboration with MADA. The event featured two panel discussions focusing on building accessible digital platforms and the right to accessible digital content for people with disabilities. Habib argued that mobility challenges faced by many were, in fact, an example of how the law alone cannot work. “There are laws that dictate that certain places have to be accessible but it’s a shared responsibility that goes beyond legislation,” he said. Anirban Lahiri, the senior assistive technology specialist, speaking on a panel discussion, pointed out that it was generally a challenging environment for people who wanted to move around in Qatar on a wheelchair. Fatima Abu Shreida, a visually impaired teacher at an independent school, said that many devices for people with disabilities were actually not affordable. “Truth is, not everyone can afford these devices. There is also a lot of competition between the companies manufacturing devices for us,” Shreida said. She said that accessing books and learning content in general was also an issue for the visually impaired. Salma Farzat, a psychologist for children with special needs, said that people with disabilities found it difficult to land in jobs because they did not have the right qualifications. She said many only held highschool degrees. “There is a need to provide laptops and other such devices to people with disabilities so that learning becomes easier for them. I don’t really care much about access to social media; what’s more important is e-learning,” Farzat said. In his opening remarks, Ahmed Hefnawi, Policy Manager, Strategic Planning at ictQatar, said that the national e-accessibility policy is playing a huge role to overcome obstacles faced by people with disabilities in regard to digital access. “Access to digital content and services is no longer a luxury, it’s a necessity inclusive of all members of society in their daily lives. ictQatar is focused on equal success for all,” Hefnawi said. Sorce:Qatar Chronicle