RI Global From the Field: First Day of World Congress Draws Big Names, Puts Forth Big Ideas

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RI Global: Office of Communications

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

World leaders came out in force during the opening of the 23rd Rehabilitation International Congress on 25 October to join business, academics and charity groups in redoubling efforts to tackle inequality “head on”.

Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, fresh from a European Union session in Brussels, along with the Princess Royal, opened the conference, which hosted an audience of 1,000 people from 65 different countries at the Edinburgh International Conference Centre. In her speech, she pledged that Scotland would “redouble our efforts to tackle inequality” and went on to ensure that “everyone has the chance to realise his or her full potential.

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“Far too often persons with disabilities are just seen as service users… they aren’t just a group, they are individuals with individual circumstances, needs and aspirations,” Sturgeon said. “Having the perspective of persons with disabilities must be a focus and not an afterthought.”

Sturgeon not only called for disabled people to continue their activism, but to run for political office, adding that “breaking barriers is what this Congress is about.”

Throughout the day, RI and Shaw Trust delegates aimed their talks and presentations at Sturgeon’s directive. In the first plenary session, the World of Work, Mike Thompson, a senior manager at Barclay’s spoke practical resources to help organisations consider how to build inclusive practices into their ways of working – something which despite popular misconception, doesn’t have to mean high-cost investment. While others, including Paul Litchfield of the BT Group, added that the bottom line of businesses improved when companies diversified their employee base.

With Edinburgh Castle serving up as a backdrop, the UK minister for disabled people, health and work, Penny Mordaunt, met with the RI’s incoming president Zhang Haidi to discuss the impetus on all countries to work together to promote a global policy of inclusion. Both agreed that because of their global reach, businesses will play a significant role in implementing real change through the essential services, products and employment they provide to people across the world.

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Upon the Princess Royal’s arrival at the World Congress that morning, Dr. Stephen Duckworth, one of the UK’s top disability advocates and the Chair of the World Congress board, escorted her through the World Congress expo, which featured more than 30 booths from local disability organizations, such as Inclusion Scotland to worldwide manufacturers of prosthetics and wheelchairs, including Ottobock Healthcare. “More can always be done to promote equality and diversity and the World Congress is the right forum to seek change,” the Princess said.
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First signs of that change included intense international media exposure on disability inclusion, the theme of the Congress. Outgoing RI Global President, Jan Monsbakken, and Secretary-General Venus Ilagan appeared on the BBC’s programme, Scotland 2016, to talk about the differences between disability inclusion among different countries, the implementation of the CRPD and the ways in which disability rights have changed.
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On day two of the World Congress, speakers will cover Disability-Inclusive Disaster Risk Management, as well as Independent living. Stay tuned at www.riworldcongress.com.

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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.

Join us at the 2016 RI Global World Congress: riworldcongress.com