Built environment accessibility in the eastern province of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia as seen by persons with disabilities.


  • Helen Peterson Prince Mohammad bin Fahd University




According to the World Health Organization, the rights of persons with disabilities (PwD) worldwide are limited by social and physical barriers that prohibit their full participation in society.  Built environment barriers can limit accessibility to transportation, goods and services, healthcare, employment, and overall independent movement.  The Eastern Province (EP) of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) has about six per cent of its population designated as having some type of physical disability.  Previously KSA-instituted rules and standards have not improved accessibility for PwD in the local built environment. This research attempted to determine the extent of accessibility in EP by surveying 183 persons with disabilities to ascertain what elements of the built environment are problematic for them and what they believe requires improvement.  According to this survey, PwD felt elements that are essential to accessibility, such as ramps, elevators, restrooms, signage, and egress, are difficult to navigate. Commonly used public locations such as medical centres, restaurants, shopping, mosques, and banks each had obstructive elements that prevented PwD from fully using the spaces. Saudi Arabia is currently in the process of phasing in technical and social programs regarding the built environment that should improve accessibility for PwD, but current conditions are inadequate.


Abu Tariah H., Ghasham N., Alolayan M., Alahmadi B., Alqarni A. (2018). Wheelchair accessibility of mosques in Riyadh. Work, 60(3),385-391. doi: https://doi.org/10.3233/wor-182758

Al-Jadid, M. S. (2013). Disability in Saudi Arabia. Saudi Medical Journal, 34 (5), 453-460. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23677260/

Alkawai, F.M. & Alowayyed, A. S. (2017) Barriers in accessing care services for physically disabled in a hospital setting in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, cross-sectional study. Journal of Community Hospital Internal Medicine Perspectives, 7(2), 82-86, doi: https://doi.org/10.1080/20009666.2017.1324237

Crews, D.E., & Zavotka, S. (2006). Aging, Disability, and Frailty: Implications for Universal Design. Journal of Physiological Anthropology, 25(1), 113-118. doi: https://doi.org/10.2114/jpa2.25.113

Enginz, E.B., & Savli, H. (2016). Examination of accessibility for disabled people at metro stations. International Journal of Architecture and Planning, 4(1), 34- 48. doi: https://doi.org/10.15320/iconarp.2016120307

Gamache, S., Routhier, F., Mortenson, B., Lacroix, E., Miller, W. C., Martin Ginis, K.A., (2020). Objective evaluation of environmental obstacle encountered in two Canadian urban settings by mobility device users. Journal of Accessibility and Design for All, 10(1), 98-123. doi: https://doi.org/10.17411/jacces.v10i1.186

General Authority for Statistics. (2017). Persons with Disability Survey 2017. Retrieved from https://www.stats.gov.sa/sites/default/files/disability_survey_2017_en.pdf.

General Authority for Statistics. (2018). Population & Demography; Population In Eastern Region by gender, age group, and nationality (Saudi/Non-Saudi). Statistical Yearbook of 2018 (54), 1. Retrieved from https://www.stats.gov.sa/en/6135.

Hakim, G., & Jaganjac, N. (2005). A note on disability issues in the Middle East and North Africa (English). World Bank, Washington, D.C. http://documents.worldbank.org/curated/en/912231468110689787/A-note-on-disability-issues-in-the-Middle-East-and-North-Africa

Jamaludina, M. and Kadir, S. A. (2012). Accessibility in Buildings of Tourist Attraction: A case studies comparison. Procedia - Social and Behavioral Sciences 35, 97 – 104. doi: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.sbspro.2012.02.067

Japan International Cooperation Agency Planning and Evaluation Department (JICAPED). (2002, March). Country profile on disability, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. http://siteresources.worldbank.org/DISABILITY/Resources/Regions/MENA/JICA_Saudi_Arabia.pdf

Kadir, S.A., Jamaludin, M. & Rahim, A.A. (2012). Building Managers’ Perception in Regards to Accessibility and Universal Design Implementation in Public Buildings: Putrajaya case studies. Procedia - Social and Behavioral Sciences 5, 129-136. doi: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.sbspro.2012.02.071

Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. (2000) Disabled Care System. Royal Decree No. M/37 dated 9/23/1421 (19/12/2000).


Kirschner, K.L., Breslin, M.L. & Iezzoni, L.I. (2007). Structural Impairments That Limit Access to Health Care for Patients with Disabilities. Journal Of the American Medical Association, 297(10), 1121-1125. doi: https://doi.org/10.1001/jama.297.10.1121

Mertens, D., Wilson, A. & Mounty, J. (2007). Gender equity for people with disabilities in S. Klein et al. (Ed.), Handbook for Achieving Gender Equity through Education. Routledge; 2nd edition (pp. 583-604). ISBN-13 : 978-0805854534.

Meyers, Thomas. (2014) The International Building Code and The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Saudi Aramco Loss Prevention Department. From https://studylib.net/doc/18191715/the-international-building-code%C2%AE-and-the-kingdom-of-saudi.

Michailakis, Dimitris. (1997). Government Action on Disability Policy, A Global Survey. Liber Publishing House, Sweden. https://www.independentliving.org/standardrules/UN_Answers/UN.pdf

Ministry of Human Resources and Social Development (HRSD). (2017). Mega and large establishments should pursue Mowaamah certificates to prepare friendly-disability environment next month. https://hrsd.gov.sa/en/news /mega-and-large-establishments-should-pursue-mowaamah-certificates-prepare-friendly-disability.

Ministry of Human Resources and Social Development (HRSD). (2019). Alignment: 8 criteria for obtaining a "harmonization" certificate for establishments' commitment to providing a suitable work environment for persons with disabilities. Translated from: https://hrsd.gov.sa/ar/news

Ministry of Labor and Social Development. (2018). 150 firms obtain ‘Mowaamah’ certificates due to preparation of disability-friendly environment: MLSD. https://hrsd.gov.sa/en/news/150-firms-obtain-%E2%80%98mowaamah%E2%80%99-certificates-due-preparation-disability-friendly-environment-mlsd

Mowaamah. (2017). Retrieved from https://www.mowaamah.sa

Mulazadeh, M. A. and Al-Harbi, T.S. (2016). Design of the Built Environment and the Integration of Wheelchair Users in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia: Commentary and Exploratory Study. Journal on Development Disabilities, 22 (2), 121-137. Retrieved from https://oadd.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/12/41023-JoDD-22-2-v10f-121-137-Mulazadeh-and-Al-Harbi.pdf

National Transformation Program; Delivery Plan 2018- 2020. (2016). Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.Retrieved from https://www.apucis.com/frontend-assets/porto/initial-reports/NTP,P20English,P20Public,P20Document_2810.pdf.pagespeed.ce.4jQO6xxXVw.pdf

O’Day, B., Palsbo, S., Dhont, K. & Schemer, J. (2002). Health Plan Selection Criteria by People with Impaired Mobility. Medical Care, 49(2), 732-742. doi: https://doi.org/10.1097/00005650-200209000-00003

Poldma, T., Labbé, D., Bertin, S., De Grosbois, E., Barile, M., Mazurik, K., Desjardins, M., Hakim Herbane, H., Artis, G. (2014). Understanding people’s needs in a commercial public space: About accessibility and lived experience in social settings. ALTER, European Journal of Disability Research 8, 206-216. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.alter.2014.02.007

Prince Salman Center for Disability Research. (2010). Universal Accessibility Built Environment Guidelines for the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia 1431H – 2010 (UABEG). Prince Salman Center for Disability Research- Riyad. ISBN: 978-603-00-5756-6. http://v2.kscdr.org.sa/media/16933/uap-be-en.pdf.

Rbeihat, S. (2006). Global Survey on Government Implementation of the Standard Rules—Results Analysis. South-North Center for Dialogue & Development, Amman, Jordan, for the Office of the UN Special Rapporteur on Disabilities http://www.un.org/disabilities/documents/srreports/gsr30jan07.doc

Saudi Building Code National Committee. (2007). Saudi Building Code, 1st edition. https://rise.esmap.org/data/files/library/saudi-arabia/KSA/EE/27,30_the%20Saudi%20Building%20Code%20(SBC)..pdf

Saudi Building Code National Committee. (2018). Saudi Building Code-18. https://sbc.gov.sa/En/Feedback/Pages/SBC_2018.aspx

Saudi Building Code National Committee. (2018). FAQ: What are the phases of implementing the code? from https://www.sbc.gov.sa/En/ConnectUS/ Pages/FAQ.aspx.

Saudi Gazette. (2019). 8 criteria for obtaining Mowaamah Certificate. Saudi Gazette. https://saudigazette.com.sa/article/583823

Saudi Gazette. (2018). Saudi Building Code mandatory for large projects. Saudi Gazette. https://saudigazette.com.sa/article/532737

Soltania, S.H.K, Shamb, M., Awangb, M. & Yamanb, R. (2012). Accessibility for Disabled in Public Transportation Terminal. Procedia - Social and Behavioral Sciences 5, 89 – 96. doi: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.sbspro.2012.02.066

United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs. (2004). Reaching the most vulnerable: proposed supplement to the Standard Rules on the Equalization of Opportunities for Persons with Disabilities. [Annex E/CN.5/2004/4]. https://www.un.org/development/desa/disabilities/resources/reaching-the-most-vulnerable-proposed-supplement-to-the-standard-rules-on-the-equalization-of-opportunities-for-persons-with-disabilities-annex-ecn-520044.html

United Nations General Assembly. (1994). Standard Rules on the Equalization of Opportunities for Persons with Disabilities. Resolution Adopted by The General Assembly, Forty-eighth session, Agenda item 109. https://www.un.org/disabilities/documents/gadocs/standardrules.pdf

Vision 2030. (2016). Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. https://vision2030.gov.sa

World Health Organization (WHO). (2018). 10 Facts on disability. From https://www.who.int/news-room/facts-in-pictures/detail/disabilities

World Health Organization (WHO) & The World Bank (WB). (2011). World report on disability. Retrieved from https://www.who.int/disabilities/world_report/2011/report.pdf

Company websites showing Mowaamah certification:











Article cover




How to Cite

Peterson, H. (2021). Built environment accessibility in the eastern province of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia as seen by persons with disabilities. Journal of Accessibility and Design for All, 11(1), 115-147. https://doi.org/10.17411/jacces.v11i1.294