RI Global in the News: Xinhua — China’s Zhang Haidi inaugurated as head of Rehabilitation International

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(Xinhua)    04:48, October 28, 2016

Chairwoman of China Disabled Persons’ Federation Zhang Haidi was on Thursday officially inaugurated as the leader of the Rehabilitation International (RI).

She was sworn in at the closing ceremony of the three-day world congress of the RI, theworld’s leading network for the rights and inclusion of people with disabilities.

Addressing the ceremony, Zhang, 61, who lives with paraplegia and has been praised forher effective disability activism and thus dubbed “China’s Helen Keller”, pledged that shewill help improve the livelihood of the world’s 1 billion disabled people and provide themwith the opportunity of recovery, education and employment as well as decent lives.

Elected as the new RI president in 2014 after gaining an overwhelming majority of votes,Zhang has been lauded for her work of enhancing the well-being of disabled people in China.

She told the congress that a large number of disabled people, especially those in thedeveloping countries, are still living in plight.

“The international community should make more efforts to eliminate discrimination andprejudice against the disabled,”she said, adding that special attention should be given tothe survival and development of the disabled women and children.

Zhang, who is also a translator and writer, vowed that the RI will support and encouragethe world’s leading academic institutes to carry out researches on recovery science and technologies.

She also promised to set aside a special fund for Africa and create permanent RI awardsfor those who contribute to the recovery of the disabled.

Jan Monsbakken, who stepped down as the RI president on Thursday, told Xinhua thatZhang’s election was an important moment for the RI and also for the whole rehabilitationand disability community.

“It’s very important that China is entering the formal structures of the internationalsociety (of the disability rehabilitation ),” he said, adding that he hopes the new presidentcould better mobilize resources and power to make the RI an even more successfulorganization.

Founded in 1922, the RI is a worldwide network of grassroots organizations, serviceproviders, researchers, academics, professionals and government agencies with membersin over 100 countries and regions. It is the only international disability NGO that is bothcross-disability and cross-disciplinary.

The RI congress, held every four years, brings together government, business, academics and charity groups. Over 1,000 delegates from 60 countries and regions attended the major international event on disability.