RI Global What’s On: The World Congress Recap

Newsletter: The World Congress Recap
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The 23rd RI World Congress saw Princess Anne, Dr. Stephen Duckworth and Chinese performers converge on Edinburgh, Scotland from 25-27 October for a celebration of inclusiveness.

Newsletter: RI World Congress Recap!

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 an European Union “Brexit” 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.”

The day capped off three days of work on the part of RI Global’s Executive Committee to prepare for the coming year and the opening kicked off three more days of panels, speeches and presentations designed to set the course for the future of Persons with Disabilities (PwDs). In between sessions, with Edinburgh Castle serving up as a backdrop, ministers of government, academics and NGO leaders met with the RI Global’s incoming president Zhang Haidi to discuss the impetus on all countries to work together to promote a global policy of inclusion. See the daily recap below:

Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon greets the opening assembly with fiery words: “We are committed to using the new powers we will shortly gain to positively influence the quality of life for people with a disability.” 

Day One: Employment, education and skills 

While the first plenary session, the World of Work, was underway with Mike Thompson, a senior manager at Barclay’s, speaking about practical resources to help organisations build inclusive practices among office environments, the Princess Royal arrived at the World Congress. She held a private audience with Dr. Stephen Duckworth, one of the UK’s top disability advocates and the Chair of the World Congress board, who then escorted her through the World Congress expo, which featured more than 30 booths with information and products. “More can always be done to promote equality and diversity and the World Congress is the right forum to seek change,” the Princess said.

Later that afternoon, the the UK minister for disabled people, health and work, Penny Mordaunt, met with the RI’s incoming president Zhang Haidi to discuss the significant role businesses will play in implementing real change through essential services, products and employment they provide to people across the world. The day received intense international media exposure on disability inclusion, as 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 had changed.

The Chinese delegation presents Princess Anne with a silk portrait of her mother, Queen Elizabeth, made by one of many disabled artists displayed at the RI World Congress Expo. 

Day Two: Independent Living

Following a first night of receptions, including the launch of Pos’ability Magazine’s Global List, the RI World Congress returned for Day 2, which explored policy and practical approaches to promoting independent living for people with disabilities. The night before had featured a VIP reception during which Katherine Deal, Editor of Pos’ability, celebrated the achievements of 50 of the most accomplished people living with disabilities  from across the world, including RI Global’s new President, Zhang Haidi. “We recognize that all lists such as this are ultimately subjective, but we also believe the Global List are incredible role models who are to be celebrated for their fantastic achievements.

The next morning, the first plenary on ageing and rehabilitation, moderated by RI Global’s own Joseph Kwok, featured Lord Geoffrey Filkin from the UK’s Centre for Ageing Better, as well as Dame Anne Begg a former Scottish Member of Parliament, discussed three key dimensions of a good later life – health, financial security and social connections. For the final plenary of the day, Dr. Stephen Duckworth oversaw a discussion featuring Dr. Tom Shakespeare, Chair of the central research committee for Disability Research on Independent Living and Learning (DRILL), who argued for effective partnerships between academics and activists to further make the case for self-operated care schemes and for anti-discrimination legislation.

The day closed with a performance by Tilley Milburn, a singer and singwriter supported by Heart ‘n Soul, an award-winning creative arts company that provides people who have learning disabilities, with opportunities to discover, develop and share their talents. Tilley performed stand-up comedy and tunes with her best friend Del, a beautiful pink stuffed pig who has been her best friend since she discovered him in a Kent card store.

The Shaw Trust, Pos’ability Global List, an artist at the Expo and Euan MacDonald, founder of disabled travel website Euan’s Guide, with fans. 

Day Three: International Development and Partnerships

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.

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.”

2016 UK Paralympic Gold Medalist Hannah Cockroft, winner of the Women’s 100m T34 meets with World Congress volunteers.

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.Following 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.

With 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.

For follow-up to the World Congress, visit the:
World Congress Website
Facebook Page
Twitter Page
Flickr Account
And remember the hastag #inclusiveworld to keep the spirit of the Congress going!

Scenes from the RI World Congress closing ceremonies on 25 October 2016. 

RI Global Congress Outcomes

RI Global Brings Nine Fellows to the World Congress

A limited amount of funding donated by MB Lee of Hong Kong on behalf of Asia Trust supported the participation of nine RI Global members from low-income countries to the 23rd World Congress. The RI Global Fellows had demonstrated leadership and commitment in rehabilitation of, and advocacy toward ,disability on national and local levels. They also showed the capability to share lessons learned from the Congress to strengthen ongoing initiatives of their member organizations. Meet the RI Global 23rd World Congress Fellows.Ali Zahi Ghassani, Medical Coordinator, Amel Association, Lebanon.
In his own words: The Amel Association International (Amel) is a Lebanese and non-sectarian NGO created in 1979 offering accessible services such as psychosocial counseling, rural development, child protection and human rights promotion – it was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 2016. My role entails providing staff training, drafting health related policies and procedures and implementing the activities, among other things. As a result of the protracted Syrian Refugee Crisis, I am also involved in working alongside various NGOs and UN partners across multiple sectors, as well as providing medical technical assistance and primary health care services at our 14 health centers and 6 mobile medical units.

Annie Petri Hans, Physiotherapist, Shanta Memorial Rehabilitation Center, Orissa, India
In her own words: I worked first as a physiotherapist to bridge the gap between hospital and rehabilitation stays. Our motto was to “give the power of information” to the clients so that they would be best equipped to manage life at home. Since we’ve been established, we’ve seen a significant decrease in mortality rates of people with spinal cord injuries, and we’ve enhanced the quality of life for Persons with Disabilities. Shanta has grown from a six-bed to a 20-bed unit, and has adapted for disability inclusion in different sectors. I recently co-authored a book in disaster risk management for PwDs and I want to see and learn and make connections around all these factors surrounding disability.

Atikah Haira, Educational Consultant, The Indonesian Society for the Care of Children with Disabilities (YPAC), Jakarta, Indonesia
In her own words: I am committed to providing professional guidance as well as mentoring to upgrade the skills of certified teachers and therapists for Persons with Disabilities by improving the methods of teaching and training on behavior intervention plans. Not only that, I also provide required information to parents of children with disabilities for increasing parents’ involvement in their children’s development. YPAC, which was founded in 1953, is currently lacking young volunteers, which I hope to gain from discussions at the World Congress. I also hope that I can impart my gained experience from the discussions to further develop more activities towards assisting children with disabilities in Indonesia.

Demelash Bekele Debere, Executive Director, Vision Community Based Rehabilitation Association, Ethiopia
In his own words: As a disability activist, I advocate for the inclusion of people with disability in all development agendas of the country. I also play an active role in influencing local policies to be disability friendly. Currently, I am serving on the Community Based Rehabilitation Network in Ethiopia as a board chair and represent various disability initiatives in the country.  As I am self motivated young leader in the area of disability, I have a keen passion to advance future work and gain opportunities to partner with RI Global in Ethiopia and Africa.

Diop Alpha Boubacar, Chairperson, Guinea Network of PwD Organizations for the Promotion of the CRPD, Guinea  
In her own words:  This is an opportunity for my organization to expand its network of partners. The RI Congress is also an opportunity for partnerships through its network of members and the possibility of enriching everyone’s experience.

Kenny Ramirez Camargo, Physical Therapist, Universidad del Rosario, Bogota, Colombia
In his own words: When I finished my education, I spent two months as a volunteer at the RI head office in New York from March to May 2014. I learned so much from observing the day-to-day work of the Secretary-General. When I went back to Colombia after my volunteer work, I shared my experience with other PT and OT students of the University and they, in turn, wanted to support RI in Colombia and in South America. I know that RI does not have many members in this region so I will try my best to help get more RI members here. We are a developing country, but our government has done a lot of work for accessibility. Our buses are fully accessible; public places like parks and tourist attractions are generally disabled-friendly. Other RI members from developing countries can learn from our experience and I can learn from them, too.

Lindy Barbara Poris, Senior Physiotherapist, Rehabilitation Services, Seychelles
In her own words: Seychelles is and has been very active in promoting awareness as well as empowering people with disabilities. The CRPD was ratified in 2009, and since a creole version of the convention has also been published. The government also assists persons with disabilities with social welfare to support them in maintaining an appropriate standard of living. As a physiotherapist, participating in 23rd RI World Congress will permit the exchange of information and ideas on different programmes, and introduce new ideas and opportunities which will promote the ability of the individual rather than their disability.

Dr. Muhammad Numan Zakria, Hospital Administrator, The Pakistan Society for the Rehabilitation of the Disabled
In his own words: I Joined PSRD Hospital in August 2005 and in 10 years, as Hospital Administrator, I have worked in strengthening and upgrading hospital services and overseen several initiatives for the well-being of our patients undergoing orthopaedic and rehabilitative surgeries. I have also led organizational relief work during the 2005 earthquake and 2008 floods. The RI World Congress will provide an opportunity for international networking which can help PSRD not only in strengthening its existing rehabilitation services, but also in expanding services to other parts of Pakistan.

Nor Rafishah Hassan, Executive Officer, Malaysian Council for Rehabilitation
In his own words: I manage and execute administrative and programme activities, as well as serve as principle point of administrative contact and liaison with internal and external entities. I also provide assistance and support in problem solving, project planning and management, and development and execution of organisation goals and objectives. The World Congress will empower my knowledge on disability, and I will bring back the knowledge of the latest progress and development gained in the field of disabilities to incorporate in into our organisation’s programme planning.

Two RI Global World Congress fellows capturing the moment in the Shaw Trust photo booth.

A Note of Thanks from Dr. Stephen Duckworth

It is now just over a month since seven Government Ministers, 200 speakers, 1,097 delegates, numerous exhibitors, conference organisers and our wonderful volunteers gathered in Edinburgh. I would like to extend my sincere thanks to each and every one of you for making the event “what it was”. You will have received an email with the opportunity to provide feedback and I would encourage you to do so.If you have any comments that you would like to share with me directly then I would be very pleased to receive them. I am currently writing the Conference Report and would like to include any comments that you have. If you have any interesting photographs then please let me have these (but no more than 4 port person otherwise my inbox will be overflowing). We have been gathering some post-conference material so the links below may be of interest:

You can watch some of the speeches via our YouTube channel (link opens a new window).

You can see some photographs here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/148794925@N07

向您汇报并转发一封来自爱丁堡世界大会主办方萧伯纳基金会的邮件,我已翻译成中文,大概意思是 问好,并希望您发送5张照片到该邮箱:Stephen.Duckworth@shaw-trust.org.uk

I look forward to seeing you in Denmark in 2020.

Best wishes, Stephen
Dr Stephen Duckworth OBE LRCP MRCS PhD MSc| Director

Some of my favorite moments from the RI World Congress. Send yours to our Flickr account or tag us on #inclusive world. Keep the momentum going! -Dr. Stephen Duckworth. 
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