Dubai — Access in Progress

Dubai taste of diversity
Dubai offers a taste of diversity

As Dubai builds a global community surrounding tourism and innovation, it strives to focus on accessibility to welcome all global travelers. Access Dubai invited ABILITY Magazine to check it out.

Knowing the UAE’s high degree of safety protocols in place made it easy to accept an invitation during the 2020 COVID-19. Before visitors can fly into Dubai, travelers must have a PRC COVID-19 certificate to enter the country. This means travelers on direct flights, for example from the United States, are less likely to be COVID-19 positive. This cannot be said for other travel destinations.

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Fred Maahs Jr in accessible shower in Dubai
Fred Maahs Jr. viewing accessible shower in Dubai hotel

The whirlwind trip started with the 5-star tour and stay at the Oberoi hotel. Height, light and peace are the 3 pillars of this international hotel chain. All rooms are larger than standard however they seem much more spacious with their design of high ceilings and oversized wheelchair accessible bathrooms. Their indoor and outdoor dining combined with top chefs will delight anyone choosing this hotel.

Next experience the Platinum Heritage safari. The only desert safari company in Dubai to offer wildlife drives instead of dune bashing which is very environmentally damaging. In fact, dune bashing is the leading cause to severe desertification which is an environmental degradation where desert vegetation and wildlife is lost. The wildlife drives are conducted by our Conservation Guides on set tracks in the Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve where there is a focus on entertaining and educating guests with insights about the native fauna and flora of the desert.

The Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve is the oldest and one of the largest national parks in the UAE and home to thousands of indigenous plant and animal species. On behalf of every guest we make a donation towards the conservation efforts of the reserve. We are the only desert safari company with 100% full-time and professionally trained Conservation Guides; this promises that your desert experience is led by an expert with plenty of knowledge and anecdotes about the desert.

Three places every Dubai guest must visit are Burj Kahlifa, the Dubai Mall and the spectacular show Le Perle, a one-of-a-kind Cirque du Soleil-esque production. You may have caught Dubai’s light celebration that went viral on social media as it rang in the 2021 new year. The tallest building in the world, Burj Khalifa, had a spectacular light, fountain and fireworks show.

The massive Dubai Mall includes over 1,300 stores, an ice rink and an aquarium of sharks. (Yes, you can submerge in a shark cage if you have the desire.)

Dubai Mall Aquarium
Dubai Mall Aquarium

The Le Perle show is an indoor aqua, aerial, acrobatic show with high preforming motorcycle feats. The theme is biased on two lovers and a pearl and is best understood by you own imagination.

The experience on the ground can only be topped by a fly over onboard a Seawing’s water plane. The flight tour has an accessible ramp to the plane. And travelers able to transfer in tight spaces. It’s an thrill to take off on water and seeing the bird’s eye view of what people can do with the rights resources.

Sea Plane tour
Accessible seaplane tour

As a growing technology hub, Dubai hosted thousands of visitors during the Gulf Information Technology Exhibition (Gitex) Technology Week, the largest tech conference in the region and the only in-person tech expo in 2020.

Gulf Information Technology Exhibition (Gitex)
Dubai Government booth at the Gulf Information Technology Exhibition (Gitex)

The expo boasted several innovations to make the world more accessible, including RightHear, an application Dubai will use in future expos and throughout the UAE.Expo 2020 will incorporate RightHere, winner of a tech startup incubator partnership between Dubai Tourism, Accenture and Microsoft.

RightHear will serve as a prominent accessibility tool, a wayfinder for people with blindness or low vision. Co-founder and CEO Idan Meir has developed this application to assist people that are blind to be have full navigation within buildings through placed beacons called Accessible Spots. At each Accessible Spot, the beacon utilizes Bluetooth technology to transmit all of the relevant information to the user’s smartphone. The smartphone app, in conjunction with VoiceOver or TalkBack, then reads the information out loud to the user. Because all of the Accessible Spots in a building are strategically located, the user is always within range and has access to information.

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The information is input, and updated, through an online dashboard that the venue manager has total control of. Managers can update the information as often as they wish so the content that users hear is always relevant to any current events going on in a certain Accessible Spot or in the whole Accessible Zone. Right-Hear is an advanced accessibility solution that allows people who are blind or visually impaired to acquire better orientation in public spaces (mostly indoor).  RightHear is an advanced accessibility solution that allows its users to hear where they are, what’s there, and what’s around them simply by pointing their smartphone in different directions.

The RightHear solution has 3 main components: The RightHear app open on an iPhone X

Accessibility Spot (AS)

Every AS contains a tiny, smart, self-powered sensor that uses Bluetooth technology to detect whenever a user is nearby.
It can be easily installed anywhere, indoor and outdoor. Accessible Spots can typically be found near entrances, restrooms, elevators, stairs or any other point of interest in the venues.

Mobile App – Key Features

Free on iOS and Android.
CURRENT LOCATION – Helpful, relevant information about the AS location: opening hours, services, nearby obstacles, venue description, special events etc.
360° ORIENTATION – Information about the surroundings of the user’s current location and about points of interest nearby with clear details about their direction and distance.
LIVE ASSISTANT – A local assistance representative that users can call for further information about the venues and also for providing them physical guidance.
NEARBY ZONES – List of all Accessibility Zones (AZ) nearby the user (sorted by distance). It also allows the user to navigate to an AZ using 3rd party application (i.e. Google Maps). When approaching the AZ’s entrance, user will start receiving accessibility information.

Client Dashboard

A content management platform (CMS) which allows the venue’s owner to manage the fleet of Accessibility Spots and easily edit the accessibility information in real-time. The content will be immediately updated and available on the AS. Dashboard is available at in the menu under “login”.

Expo 2020
World Expo 2020 Dubai

In addition to its GiTex expo, Dubai is currently building the largest World Expo and is also giving great focus to accessibility. World Expo 2020 delayed its opening to 2021 due to the pandemic. Expo 2020’s accessibility features are under the guidance of Dr. Jennifer Erin Camulli—a Senior Consultant and Autism specialist at Universal Design. Jennifer brings 30 years of experience working with people with special needs and access needs. As an accessibility and inclusion consultant, Dr. Camulli works for Expo 2020 Dubai as Manager, People with Accessible Needs, to ensure the built, digital, social and sensory environments will offer full accessibility for all people with access needs. Dr. Camulli developed a comprehensive building plan that includes universal design, which all facets of disability inclusion.

Part one of this series is a small part and should temp you to visit, there is so much more to Dubai and the UAE.

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