Enhancing ICT accessibility through strategic partnerships in Qatar and beyond

On this United Nations International Day of Persons with Disabilities, ITU News connected with Maha Al-Mansouri, CEO of Mada Center, Qatar − an organization aiming to promote digital inclusion by building a technology-based community that meets the needs of persons with disabilities (PWDs) and the elderly in Qatar and beyond.

Why is ICT accessibility for the disabled and the elderly important for Mada?

At Mada Center we strongly believe in the importance of ensuring the rights of persons with disabilities and the elderly in digital access to information and communication technologies (ICTs). Our objectives are aligned with the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities − the reason behind our inception in 2010.

A key sector we focus on is education, where we strive to ensure equal opportunity, foster an inclusive education system at all levels, and support lifelong learning through ICTs.

This is in conjunction with the culture and community sector, through which Mada’s strategy aims to provide an equal basis for persons with disabilities and the elderly to take part in cultural life through ICTs, and offer better opportunities for them to unlock their creative, artistic, and intellectual potential.

At Mada we have made it our goal to enable ICTs, digital services, and develop inclusive platforms for persons with disabilities and the elderly.

How does Mada actually play a role in enhancing ICT accessibility?

We are working to achieve our strategic objectives by building strategic partnerships, both locally and internationally. By offering a number of quality services and activities to our strategic partners, we advance our role as a strategic enabler.

At the heart of Mada’s work are three key services to help empower our strategic partners to make tangible change: 1) Capability building − delivered through a variety of training programmes; 2) Digital accessibility services − offering direct support and guidance to digital designers and developers based on international standards; and 3) Advisory services, targeting decision-makers on how to make fundamental changes to key policies.

Moreover, we passionately run a number of activities as a center of excellence in digital accessibility in the Arabic language, and we are proud to have provided our beloved country, Qatar, with the means to be among the most advanced countries in this field.

We continue to further our achievements through Mada’s "Innovation Program" which is designed to encourage innovators to create Arabic solutions for persons with disabilities and the elderly, thus increasing their availability within the region through a combination of grant programs and an entire accessibility ecosystem.

Learn more about the Mada Innovation Program here.

As the hub of knowledge in the field of digital accessibility, a range of portals were developed that enable the education, culture and community sectors. In addition to the first of its kind, the Assistive Technology Portal developed by Mada offers a wide range of information about assistive technology, in both Arabic and English, alongside other specialized portals.

Furthermore, Mada drives the ICT accessibility research agenda and leads the advancement and dissemination of regional and international industry leading practices by carrying out unique research projects across a wide range of sector-specific areas.

What are your short- and long-term goals?

Our mission is to unlock the potential of persons with functional limitations, persons with disabilities and the elderly, through enabling ICT accessible capabilities and platforms. We recognize the right of everyone to have equal access to digital content and services.

In the long term we aim to continue enhancing ICT accessibility in Qatar and beyond through various initiatives to improve the lives of these vulnerable people.

What achievements are you most proud of?

We were delighted when the State of Qatar ranked 1st globally among 137 countries in the 2nd edition of the Digital Accessibility Rights Evaluation (DARE)  Index, released in 2020 by the Global Initiative for Inclusive ICTs (G3ICT).

This ranking clearly indicates the country’s progress in implementing digital accessibility rights across key sectors in compliance with the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which was ratified by the State of Qatar in 2008.

We are extremely proud of this achievement, which increases the visibility of Mada’s efforts to empower persons with functional limitations – people with disabilities and the elderly through various programmes and policy initiatives.

Mada Center is a Member of the ITU Telecommunication Development Sector (ITU-D).

Learn more about Mada Center here.

Accessibility Mada Center CEO Qatar

Maha Al-Mansouri, CEO of Mada Center, Qatar