Submitted by: Sarah Al Kaabi
Planning a trip for yourself or someone with special needs can seem like a difficult task, whether first-time visitors or current residents. Abu Dhabi has been dedicating a lot of effort and resources into increasing accessibility for people with special needs into their tourist attractions and buildings. After asking some people of determination and doing some research, I have managed to compile a small list of places in Abu Dhabi that are accessible to people with special needs and the ways in which they can accommodate them.
The Louvre Abu Dhabi
If you are looking for a museum that is accessible to people with special needs, the Louvre Abu Dhabi is the place for you. Louvre Abu Dhabi encompasses a variety of artworks from around the world, bridging the gap between the United Arab Emirates and other countries. The museum offers an accessible path that aids visitors through the galleries. It also provides audio devices that can help translate and assist people with limited vision or reading abilities to learn about the art pieces in the exhibitions. In addition, there are 3D stylized models of the objects or artworks stationed in front of select artworks that provide a material break up. These models allow everyone, including the blind and the visually impaired to feel the artwork and connect with it. Through feeling the artwork and tracing its development process, people with visual disabilities can better envision and understand the artwork as well as its meaning, thus making the art piece accessible to everyone.
Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque
One of Abu Dhabi’s most well-known gems is the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, the largest mosque in the United Arab Emirates. Named after the founder Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, may he rest in peace, the mosque has achieved 3 Guinness World Records for the biggest chandelier, the largest carpet, and the largest dome. The mosque built itself a reputation for its majestic and stunning architecture, attracting visitors from all backgrounds and religions. Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque also is known for being accommodating of people with special needs. One of the first initiatives the mosque held to welcome people with special needs from all over the UAE was holding a unique sign-language sermon on a Friday prayer in 2011. It continued to offer accessibility by providing its visitors wheelchairs on site for those who require them. For anyone who might require further assistance, there are always staff members available on site or visitors can e-mail the mosque’s help center at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Emirates Park Zoo
The zoo is a great place for people who love animals! Emirates Park Zoo offers its visitors a number of ways to interact with animals, several activities throughout the day as well as a play area for children. Visitors can feed a variety of animals throughout the day, from giraffes and monkeys to hippos, as well as ride ponies, camels and horses. There are a number of shows that occur during the day that you can attend as well. The zoo provides wheelchairs that are available to hire on a first come, first served basis if required.
When the weather gets really warm and going outdoors is not an option, Yas Mall might be a good place to visit. Yas Mall is the largest mall in Abu Dhabi, offering its visitors a range of shopping, dining and entertainment indoor experiences. It holds over 370 international brands, 68 food, and beverage outlets, a range of entertainment destinations including Vox Cinemas and a family entertainment venue (Fun Works) as well as a direct passage to Ferrari World Abu Dhabi. For anybody who tires easily from long distance walking, from people with cerebral palsy who may choose not to use wheelchairs to people with chronic fatigue syndrome, the mall has a lot of seating areas for its visitors to easily take breaks. Yas Mall also has Akyasi (Arabic for “my bags”) kiosks for people to safely secure their shopping bags when they get too tired of carrying them, which can be especially helpful to people who might not have the strength to carry their shopping bags around. The mall also provides free of charge wheelchairs to loan for customers who require them at the information desk.
These are just a few of the many places in Abu Dhabi that are accessible to people of determination, and many other sites and attractions also offer a variety of accommodations upon request. By hosting the Special Olympics this year, Abu Dhabi is hoping to expand its endeavors and work on ways to make its special needs community feel more included and welcome.