Feeling their way. Qatar breaks ground with ‘sensory room’ stadium project

May 30 – As the first 2022 World Cup stadium opened its gates for Qatar’s Emir Cup final last week, a pilot sensory room project also kicked off, designed to improve the match-day experience for supporters with cognitive disabilities.

Sensory rooms can help those who have learning difficulties and developmental disabilities, providing a non-threatening space and Qatar’s Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy, which is responsible for delivering the stadia and infrastructure for the World Cup, partnered with the Ontario Centre for Special Education (OCSE) to develop the project.

Organisers hope the space will provide a more comforting environment and offer an alternative to the general match-day atmosphere, which could prove overwhelming.

The room at the Khalifa International stadium 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.”

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