Last year, the Ministry of Labor and Social Welfare recognized the Steppe Arena as a facility that is a friendly environment for people with disabilities and awarded the tribute Best Development for Persons with Disabilities 2021. We report on how people with disabilities can be served and employed in this arena, which meets the international standards in every aspect. B.Altansukh, a wheelchair user and hand cyclist, decided to join us to see, feel and get to know how friendly the facility is for people with disabilities. In other words, we performed an inspection at the Steppe Arena.
Altangerel and his wife drove to the Steppe Arena in their car. As he parked his car in the parking lot, he pulled his wheelchair out of his trunk and entered the facility. Bulganbayar Baatar, the CEO of Steppe Arena LLC, guiding him, said “If you want to watch a show and if you have not purchased your ticket in advance, go to the ticket booth this way”.
I realized that one could get a ticket merely by extending one’s arms without having to get out of the wheelchair. There is a stand next to the ticket booth where you can buy souvenirs, calendars, vouchers, chocolates, snow globes, etc. Also, there are phone charger rentals if your phone runs out of battery. We entered the main auditorium of the arena. There is a number of turnstiles with bar code reading mechanisms. And on the sides of those turnstiles, there are wider doors, of which Mr. Bulganbayar explained that “the doors were designed according to the wheelchair standard”. B.Altangerel could easily access it through the door and said, “It is very accessible.”
The Steppe Arena has a seating capacity of 2,600 people. The auditorium is spacious, cool, and airy. A figure skaters skates, turns, jumps, and sometimes falls on the ice rink, which is warm in color. Our guide Bulganbayar said, “There is only one figure skater in our country. Her name is O.Misheel. As far as we know, three Mongolian girls train in professional figure skating. G.Maral-Erdene lives in Japan and O.Iveel lives in America. O.Iveel is registered with the American Professional Figure Skating Association, where he trains and competes. It can be considered that the foundation of figure skating is being laid in our country. O.Misheel has a Russian teacher, and she gets her training online. We support and provide her training.”
We stopped for a moment to look at people skating. B.Altangerel saw Misheel skating from a special seating area. The entire top row of spectator seats is reserved for wheelchair users, their families, and caregivers. One of the four parallel chairs has been vacated to allow people to stand or sit in their wheelchairs. The other three can be enjoyed by family members and companions. Food stands are available behind those rows. The platform is accessible to anyone, for people with disabilities or young children. There are wheeled carts that can be pushed to the top row if needed, for example, to serve disabled persons.
B.Altangerel has headed to the restroom. He stressed that it is not necessary to rise to reach the door handle. The interior is clean and tidy. People in wheelchairs and crutches have every opportunity to serve themselves without any difficulties. And there also are lockers for mothers to keep their belongings and change their babies’ diapers on an adjusted platform. B.Altangerel said, “I saw such a restroom in a brand store downtown. There are not many establishments with such a setting.”
We walked past the children’s playroom and approached the elevator. Pressing the button to go down a level, I noticed that the elevator buttons were in Braille as well. B.Bulganbayar, on being asked how visually impaired people are provided with friendly services and working conditions, said that “for now, we only have Braille. One of the short-term goals is to take appropriate measures to ensure the comfort of the visually impaired. We will report back on what we have done in this respect”. He also noted that a study was conducted on not only how to ensure favorable services to people with hearing impairments, but also the possibilities of employment for them at the Steppe Arena. Based on the results of the study, it plans to act shortly to provide services to people with hearing impairments and is also studying to employ 1-2 people with disabilities. B.Bulganbayar said that since the arena is far from the city center, it is necessary to take into account the transportation and the safety of the above people, so it is being studied without making hasty decisions.
Steppe Arena has several services targeted at the community. There are skate and other equipment rentals. Professional hockey player B.Munkhbold counsels the guests. On that day, a five-year-old boy was skating with his father. In general, it is said to be better to teach children to skate from age of four or five.
We got acquainted with the fitness and warm-up rooms. Hockey players go to the rest room during the break. It is a room where the coach gives advice and points out mistakes. The hockey team has 21 athletes and has these number of seats. Each athlete has a four-section shelf for storing clothes, hats, skates, and personal protective gear. These were also done per the standards of the International Olympic Committee. Otherwise, it will not be possible to organize regional-level competitions.
Mongolian league competitions used to be held outside, but since last year they have been held at the Steppe Arena. After hearing all these and witnessing the arena in person, B.Altangerel said, “I did not know that we now have such an arena. It’s awesome. I have news to share with my friends.”