Women shop at a shopping mall in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Image Credit: Reuters

Abu Dhabi: The Saudi Human Rights Commission has said all shops and shopping malls are required to make accessible entrances and exits with ramp slopes for people with special needs.

The watchdog made the announcement on its Twitter account.

It published an infographic to define the ideal design specifications for ramps for persons with disabilities.

The Saudi Authority for the Care of Persons with Disabilities, which is one of the initiatives of the National Transformation Programme to empower persons with disabilities and enhance their role in the Kingdom, said the the decision took effect from Tuesday and accordingly the Ministry of Municipal and Rural Affairs will start continuous inspection campaigns to ensure all shopping malls abide by it.

The move is meant to make people in wheelchairs easily access any store, eating at a restaurant and enjoying the many attractions that the mall offers. Everything should be thought to attract people in wheelchairs and make them feel welcome like any customer. Even their accommodations are accessible.

A hearing impaired person can be provided with an amplifier (FM systems) to fully understand the advice of the sales assistant. Plus, some apps exist such as Ava which transcribes in live the words of a group of people. The same applies for a person in a wheelchair who would need a suitable fitting room to try the clothes, lower checkout counters and removable digital payment terminals. All customers are supposed to leave the mall feeling like they’ve had a good experience.

It’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the crowd and by the constant noise and loud conversations. Some autistic people are particularly intolerant to noise and wear noise-cancelling headphones or ear defenders in order to protect themselves from exterior noises.

Every situation can be stressing for a person with disabilities in a confined and busy place.

Accessibility for all is still a work in progress but some shopping malls in the Saudi Arabia are already leading the way. They understood that they could be more welcoming and inclusive to meet the needs of any type of public and attract more shoppers once their malls turned accessible, meaning more profits for them and happy shoppers who will have a great time doing something easy that everybody does.