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MIA and UCL create new forum on heritage accessibility for Qatar’s disabled community
26 March 2014
Members of Qatar’s disabled community have come together for a ground-breaking 'Disability Focus Group' held at the Museum of Islamic Art (MIA). Organised by the MIA and UCL Qatar, this event saw Qatar's disabled community share their views on how to improve access to Museums for disabled people.
The group was led and facilitated by disability expert and empowerment specialist, UCL graduate Abdi Gas. Under discussion was how MIA can better engage with disabled people and improve services and access for disabled people. The forum is the first of its kind to take place in Doha.
Abdi Gas said: “At first it was hard to convince disabled people to come, seeing as an event like this has never occurred before. Once we communicated the impact and purpose of the group, people came forward in numbers. It also generated interest from others who want to better provide for audiences with access needs. It was a really positive step by MIA and I commend them in their desire to welcome and better cater for disabled people at their Museum”.
Records show that there are 10,000 registered disabled people in Qatar, which grows to approximately 12% of the population when non-disclosure is factored in. Across this population there are a full range of needs including visual impairment, physical disability, learning disability and hearing loss.
The number of people aged 65 and above has almost doubled from 8,659 in 2000 to 15,708 in 2010. The Statistics Authority’s Disability Survey of 2009 also shows that the recorded number of people with disabilities grew 23% from 2007, reaching 10,174 in 2009. The figures of those with disabilities in Qatar should be considered conservative with actual figures estimated to be higher, as the survey only accounts for people registered with specialised hospitals and centres.
Aisha Al Khater, Director of MIA, said "Since the inception of MIA, accessibility has and always will be one of our utmost priorities. We are delighted to be working with the Disability Focus Group led by Abdi Gas to continuously improve our services and ensure that the rich heritage MIA upholds is shared and enjoyed by all.”
Since the opening of UCL Qatar, a core element of staff activity has been to engage with different communities to raise awareness of and spread interest in the fields of diverse cultural heritage, art and archaeology. According to UCL Qatar’s Outreach Officer Antonia Rosati, the disabled community is particularly significant. “One particular area of interest and concern for us is the disabled community and those who have difficulty accessing to heritage due to limited mobility and lack of provision for their particular needs. We have therefore been developing and delivering a range of training and disability awareness initiatives as well as heritage related activities for disabled people. We have been delighted to be part of this initiative at the Museum of Islamic Art”.