RI Global From the Field: Day 3 of World Congress Tackles Sports and Disability, Ushers in New President

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RI Global: Office of Communications

Contact: Adrian Brune, +1 347-759-9501

The plenary session of Day Three explored the ways in which disabled persons and organizations could work together to create a more accessible world in the face of change. The morning focused on disaster preparedness, a timely topic considering the UN World Conferences related to natural – and man-made – crises, such as 2015 Climate Change Conference in Paris and Habitat III. RI Global’s own Regina Ernst and Stephen Duckworth moderated a panel in which Dr. David Alexander of University College London spoke on the design of measures to assist or empower people with disabilities during disasters. Mike Adamson, Chief Executive of the British Red Cross, explained his efforts to stretch the charity to help more people after a crisis. By providing follow-up support at the vital stages, he said BRC volunteers and staff helped prevent hospital stays, reduced levels of readmission, and minimised the need for expensive residential care.

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During the afternoon, the plenary turned to Culture, Leisure, Sport, and Accessibility. Chet Cooper, the founder of ABILITY Magazine, talked about the power of social media to not only promote awareness for disability issues, but also bring disparate communities together. He was joined by Graeme K Whippy, the resident disability expert of Channel 4 Television who has helped the network’s representation of disability on-screen, and Craig Crowley, the former President of International Committee of Sports for the Deaf (Deaflympics).

In addition to the visability of the disabled, panelists talked about disabled volunteering and disabled sport. Ottobock Healthcare, which provided equipment to athletes who competed at the recent Rio Paralympic Games, and Shaw Trust, a leading disabled volunteer organization, called on the global community to offer greater access to sport and assistive technology toward the independence of PwDs. The German gold medal sprinter, Heinrich Popow told the Congress, that “the best thing you can do is to be honest. Be honest with yourself and your disability.”

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Closing Ceremony

To mark the transition of leadership between outgoing President of Rehabilitation International, Jan Monsbakken, and incoming President, Zhang Haidi, the Chinese Disabled People’s Federation (CDPF) sent over the China Disabled People’s Performing Arts Troupe (CDPPAT) to perform, among other things, the One Thousand Hand Bodhisattva Dance. Demonstrating that the silent and simple are often the most powerful, the performance featured 21 mostly deaf dancers choreographing the rhythm of the music by reading sign language from teachers situated around the room. A saying among the troupe has been translated as “I am your eyes, and you are my ears; I am your mouth, and you are my legs,” according to Wang Jing, the director of CDPPAT.
deaf-dancers-2Following a speech by Monsbakken, who called the Congress “an event that can push the world forward to make more inclusive societies,” Zhang addressed the packed convention hall. “We shall enhance co-operation with other international organisations and play a more active role in world disability affairs. We shall upgrade RI’s global network and encourage more involvement from developing countries and conducting more co-operation projects,” she pledged. Zhang also called on RI Global to encourage more advanced rehabilitation related science; establish an Africa Fund to conduct rehabilitation service projects; provide assistive devices for disabled women and children; and found a permanent award for RI to award to those who have made outstanding contributions to our common cause.“I would like to build a bridge for persons with disabilities towards a better life. Today in beautiful Edinburgh let’s start building this bridge!” she concluded.
monsbakken-awardWith a final performance by Drumfun, a Scottish teambuilding group that closed the 3-day event with a mass drumming session, the ties that had developed between people of 67 nations and countless abilities were solidified. And promises were made to build on the World Congress’ success.
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For follow-up to the World Congress, visit the:
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And remember the hastag #inclusiveworld to keep the spirit of the Congress going!
RI Global: Founded in 1922, Rehabilitation International (RI Global) is a worldwide network promoting the rights and inclusions of persons with disabilities (PwDs) through advocacy, habilitation and rehabilitation to achieve an inclusive world in which all people can enjoy full human rights.