See our Case Study creating the first ever Sensory accessible World’s Fair, Expo2020 Dubai
Also known as the World’s Fair, Expo 2020 Dubai, a six-month event (October 2021–March 2022), is the first World Expo ever hosted in the Middle East, Africa, and South Asia (MEASA) region. Sensory Access helped Expo 2020 become the first World’s Fair in history to become a certified Sensory-Accessible site, with autism and sensory accessibility across the 1,083-acre (438-hectare) area. The Expo site is fully accessible to an estimated 25 million visitors over six months, with 192 nations participating in this global event.
Expo 2020 Dubai is a global event with numerous international stakeholders. Sensory Access had to carefully navigate language and communication barriers while working with delegations from over 100 countries. In the UAE, communication is exponentially more expedient face to face, so many international trips and ongoing site visits to each delegation were required to create the accessibility that exists today.
At an event where the goal is to showcase your nation’s technology and innovation, many countries wanted to wow their guests with 360-degree immersive rooms, multimedia performances and interactive experiences. Each country pavilion and thematic Expo Pavilion did indeed bring their A-game, which resulted in a fantastic mixture of extraordinary experiences. For guests with sensory difficulties however, the unexpected nature of what an experience may entail acts a barrier, so each exhibition had to be carefully audited, rated on every type of sensory impact by our autistic/sensory sensitive team members, and then displayed in a way that was easily accessible by guests — not an easy feat with such a huge site and international participants that prefer to surprise their guests.
Working on such an international event means adapting to new cultures, language, terminology, and customs, and weaving that all into the work that is produced. In the UAE, for example, individuals with disabilities are called “People of Determination,” as the UAE is quite passionate about accessibility rights. However, one of our goals was to ensure that all language utilized in communication, from the website and mobile app to Social Narratives and social media was also language accepted by the very communities that would utilize the supports; for example, using identify-first language instead of person-first language. Communicating that across so many layers of approvals was often not easy — even the smallest poster or written communication often required the approval of multiple people and departments, none of which were versed in disability and inclusion.
Sensory Access worked with the Overall Accessibility Team at Expo to create and expand a variety of accessibility features for autistic and other sensory sensitive (Epilepsy, Down Syndrome, Cerebral Palsy) individuals:
As a result of our work at Expo 2020, the Official Tourism Board of Dubai approached Sensory Access about implementing accessibility initiatives throughout Dubai. We’ve been grateful to experience incredible places of interests throughout this incredible city with our team and create sensory ratings and social narratives about each tourism site. We developed itineraries for Tourism Board website and look forward to this ongoing relationship all over the UAE.