Britain is a leader in promoting equality and diversity across all walks of society. Successive governments have worked to reduce gaps in inequality, ensuring that we are a nation that gives everyone the opportunity to succeed. We have led the way in tackling discrimination by enshrining disabled peoples’ rights in law through the Equality Act so that barriers to greater independence, including a lack of employment opportunities and poor education, are increasingly a thing of the past.
This year there is an exciting opportunity for politicians, civil servants and senior leaders from across the public sector in Britain to influence the international debate on social inclusion and wider issues affecting disabled people. Scotland is hosting the Rehabilitation International (RI) World Congress at the Edinburgh International Conference Centre in October.
Founded in 1922, RI is a global network promoting the rights and inclusion of people with disabilities or health problems. It has member organisations across all regions of the world.
RI is a highly respected international institution and is one of the most effective vehicles to raise awareness and help change the lives of people with disabilities for the better. It created the International Symbol of Access in 1969. The International Symbol of Access is now the universally used way of designating an accessible facility and continues to be backed by the United Nations. It is also said to be one of the five most recognised symbols in the world today.
The RI World Congress is staged every four years and Shaw Trust is hosting the event in Edinburgh this year. Shaw Trust is an employment, disability, learning and skills charity that operates across Britain. This is the second time the RI World Congress will be held in the United Kingdom – the Duke of Edinburgh opened the first in 1956. I am also delighted to announce that The Princess Royal is our Patron and the First Minister of Scotland is supporting the event too.
Over 58 countries will be represented at the event. Senior officials and Ministers from foreign governments, including China and India, will be attending to join this important global occasion. Zhang Haidi, President of the China Disabled Persons’ Federation, will be appointed to lead Rehabilitation International at the World Congress this year. There will also be a range of international companies exhibiting and the event will feature officials from the United Nations, World Bank and World Health Organisation.
It is clear that the World Congress is a unique opportunity to build a stronger international movement aimed at eradicating socioeconomic barriers preventing disabled people from leading a more independent life. The timing of this event could not be better as this year is also tenth anniversary of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which will focus minds on what more can be done to deliver greater inclusion across the world.
The main theme for the congress is inclusion, with the primary aim to ensure that the 1,000 delegates from 58 countries sign up to specific voluntary actions to help people with disabilities in their home country.
On the first day of the World Congress, the focus will be on employment, education and skills. The next two days will also look at independent living and international development. Further details on the World Congress and the agenda for the full event can be found here: www.riworldcongress.com
It is great news that Edinburgh is leading positive action by the international community to deliver a world where people of all abilities and backgrounds are able to achieve their life ambitions.
By Roy O’Shaughnessy, Chief Executive of the charity Shaw Trust