Qatar’s Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy, which is responsible for delivering the stadia and infrastructure for football’s Fifa World Cup in 2022, has partnered with the Ontario Centre for Special Education (OCSE) to develop a sensory room for people with cognitive disabilities at the Khalifa International Stadium.
The stadium, in Doha, is the first World Cup venue to have been completed and opened last Friday with the Emir Cup final match. The game also saw the launch of a new sensory room designed to improve the match-day experience for supporters with intellectual deficits.
It is hoped the space will provide a comforting environment for such fans, and offer an alternative to the general match-day atmosphere, which could prove overwhelming.
The room has been fitted with noise cancellation materials, soft furnishing, mood lighting, relaxing music and brightly-coloured toys and equipment. The features are designed to manage anxiety and allow fans to watch the match from a more welcoming and sedate vantage point.
OCSE founder Mariam Al Rashdi said: “An environment was required which can help those with additional needs to cope with the excitement and stimulation happening at a football game. This sensory room was never a Fifa requirement; it was Qatar saying that we have thought about people with cognitive disabilities who require extra support to watch football.”
Samantha Sifah, head of community outreach for the Supreme Committee, added: “Accommodating the needs of people with disabilities is a reflection of the country’s ambition to prioritise accessibility throughout every sector. As we look to create new sensory rooms in the stadiums we are building, it is only a matter of time before these spaces are as commonplace in football stadiums as bathroom facilities or food concessions.”
Earlier this year, the Cleveland Cavaliers NBA basketball team introduced a quiet space sensory room at Quicken Loans Arena. It is hoped the room, which will be available to guests on request, will promote a positive and accommodating experience for all fans and guests with sensory sensitivities.