The Story of RI Global
Founded in 1922, Rehabilitation International (RI Global) is a worldwide organization comprised of people with disabilities, service providers, government agencies, academics, researchers and advocates working to improve the quality of life of people with disabilities. With member organizations in more than 100 countries and in all regions of the world, RI Global also provides a forum for the exchange of experience and information on research and practice.
Rehabilitation International grew from its small town roots in the American Midwest championed by Bell Greve, a social worker who pioneered the provision of relief and rehabilitation services to the disabled after World War I, and Dr. Henry Kessler, an orthopaedic surgeon who established the Kessler Institute in 1949 to launch the field rehabilitative medicine. Since then, the RI Global Secretariat in New York has offered expertise and solutions aimed at giving people with disabilities the chance to lead full and productive lives. With the Secretariat as its advocate at the United Nations and other global council, the majority of work is carried out by RI’s member organizations.
Along the way, there have been four major name changes: The International Society for Crippled Children, 1922; The International Society for the Welfare of Cripples, 1939; The International Society for the Rehabilitation of the Disabled, 1960; and Rehabilitation International, 1972. These name changes reflect changing social awareness towards disability. At present, the organization prefers to go by the abbreviation of its 1972 name (RI Global).
RI Global members and RI leadership have been key players in various important disability-rights movements throughout history. Some notable events from the organization’s past include:
- 1929: Petitioned the League of Nations to establish an office to oversee the collection of disability-related statistics
- 1961: Established the conceptual basis for community-based rehabilitation
- 1968: Created the International Symbol of Access
- 1975: Conducted the first global survey on disability
- 1978: Setting down a list of policies to govern the use of the International Symbol of Access
- 1998: Established one of the first self-help groups and micro-credit enterprises for women with disabilities
- 1999: Presented the Charter for the Third Millennium (in English, Spanish, Portuguese)
- 2000: Adopted the Beijing Declaration on the Rights of People with Disabilities in the New Millennium
- 1981-2006: Led the original campaign for the drafting and adoption of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD)
- 2007: Contributed to legal reform in Mexico and Argentina, granting more adequate government assistance to people with disabilities, including healthcare and pensions