Definitely Able Conference and ILHAM Art Exhibition
Under the patronage of H.E. Sheikha Al Mayassa bint Hamad Al-Thani, the Definitely Able Conference opened today at the Museum of Islamic Art, Doha. The British Council and Sasol partnered to organise an art exhibition ‘Ilham’ that opened today and will continue until March 27, the Definitely Able Conference will be ongoing for two days addressing the theme of ‘together enabling inclusion’, which reflects the partners’ belief that through dialogue society can become more inclusive for the benefit of all. The conference will take place at the Museum of Islamic Art Education Centre. The event was launched with a gala dinner bringing together an audience of more than 200 stakeholders in the disabled community, the private and public sectors.
In remarks at the Tuesday evening Gala Dinner to open the conference, His Excellency Dr. Abdullah Saleh Mubarak Al-Khulaifi, Minister of Labour and Social Affairs, said: “The Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs is pleased to be a supporting partner of this Conference. It is in line with our efforts to create a vibrant labour market that is open to all persons, regardless of disability, gender or any other factor. I applaud the spirit of the Definitely Able initiative, and look forward to the legacy it will leave here in Qatar.”
In her welcoming remarks, Qatar Museums representative, Sue Underwood, said: “We are proud to be the host venue for this ground-breaking conference and exhibition at the Museum of Islamic Art. We pledge that we will listen, collaborate and commit with partners in order for museums to be a trusted place for the community in Qatar. We encourage everyone in Qatar to take the opportunity to visit the exhibition over the coming ten days at MIA.”
A new film called “Voices” premiered at the opening of the conference, highlighting the voices of people in Qatar and the region who are disabled and realising amazing feats and accomplishments in sport and art. Through their stories, the artists invited members of the community to join them in creating a more inclusive, accessible society for all people in Qatar.
Speaking at the Gala Dinner, Maurice Radebe, Executive Vice President Energy, Sasol, commented: “Dialogue is a powerful tool to create understanding. Sasol is pleased that our Definitely Able initiative can be a platform for the conversation about achieving inclusion for people of all abilities in Qatar. We thank Her Excellency Sheika Al Mayassa, Qatar Museums and the British Council for their partnership to make this conference and the accompanying art exhibition a reality. Long after the last session we hope that the ideas discussed at conference will contribute to an enduring legacy.”
“We’re inspired by the people who have come here today – from all sectors of society – to join in sharing stories, best practices and committing to making a positive change in society,” said Martin Hope, Director, British Council Qatar. “With participation from across Qatari government and civil society we see the attention that is being given to inclusion of people with disabilities, an important component to driving the national vision forward. British Council is a proud partner in being a catalyst for using art and culture as a driver for understanding and change.”
Following an introduction by host Simon Minty and the welcoming speeches by the conference creators and partners, attendees were treated to a stirring performance by children from the Al Noor Institute for the Blind, accompanied by talented child singer Rebecca Chalouhi. Inspired keynote remarks from Lord Holmes of Richmond, Paralympic champion, ended the opening session.
Four 90-minute sessions followed, highlighting the topics of: disability legislation, employability, inclusive learning technologies and attitudes and disability terminology. Each session included a question and answer period to allow audience members to contribute and explore the topics further with the panellists and chairpersons.
In the first session, chaired by renowned Justice Zakeria Yacoob of South Africa, speakers from the United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom and global organisations highlighted positive examples and the challenges of the past towards inclusive policies and legislation.
The second session, Chaired by Dr Nasser Siabi OBE, CEO of Microlink PC, focused on disabled people’s right to meaningful employment and support. Speakers from the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs, the Qatar Social and Cultural Center for the Blind and the Voluntary Committee for Employing the Disabled explored the rights and responsibilities of employers and disabled employees through best practice from around the globe.
Session three, led by Mada, Qatar Assisitive Technology Center, highlighted the importance of ensuring accessibility to digital technologies to people with disabilities. Qatar was recognised for being the only country in the region with a national e-Accessibility policy, and identified ways to grasp an even stronger leadership position in the area of access.
The final session of the day showed the links between positive attitudes and supportive language about disability and how they are linked to the breaking down of barriers. Chaired by Dr. Ossie Stuart and David Hevey of Shape Arts, the multimedia session showed the important role art and media can play in creating positive attitudes and language.
The conference resumes for a second day on Thursday with four additional sessions on access to education, art as a vehicle to change perceptions, accessible museums and galleries and accessibility in Doha. A live stream of the event is available online for those unable to join the conference at
In conjunction with the Definitely Able Conference, the ILHAM (inspiration) Art Exhibition opened to the public following the opening ceremony of the conference. Seven artists from Qatar, Oman and the UK have created new works of art inspired by the extensive collections of the Museum of Islamic Art and a period of residency in Qatar earlier this year. From textiles to photography to paintings, the exhibition provides insight into the practice of these deaf and ‘disabled’ artists as a window to their experiences.
Strategic partners of the Conference and Exhibition include Qatar Museums, Museum of Islamic Art and UCL Qatar. Supporters include 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.
Full details about the conference are available online at www.definitelyable.com.
Follow the conference on Twitter (@definitelyable) and via the hashtag #definitelyable.
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