Global disability empowerment conference wraps up in Scotland

Organisers say athletes  at wheelchair races display disability empowerment. Picture: Contributed

Organisers say athletes at wheelchair races display disability empowerment. Picture: Contributed

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SCOTLAND has welcomed hundreds of delegates and disability and inclusion experts from around the globe this week to help shape global attitudes to disability access at the Rehabilitation International World Congress (RIWC).

Hosted in Edinburgh by the Shaw Trust, the conference is considered to be the world’s foremost international forum on furthering the empowerment and inclusion of disabled people

The RIWC got underway at Edinburgh International Conference Centre with an opening address from HRH The Princess Royal and a speech from First Minister Nicola Sturgeon.

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With this year’s event focussed on the theme of ‘inclusion’, specialists from a wide range of backgrounds and industries came together to discuss daily themes designed to tackle key issues such as employment, education and training; independent living and ageing; and international relations and sports.

By bringing together researchers, policy makers, employers, government, people with disabilities and practitioners, the conference aimed to raise the profile of disability empowerment and inclusion across all sections of society.

A number of Gold medallist Paralympians also took part in sessions as both moderators and panel experts for the sessions focussed on disability inclusion in sport.

Finishing today, the RIWC has aimed to influence disability and inclusion policy at a global level through delivering speeches, plenaries and workshops to over 1000 delegates from 60 countries, including China, India, Germany, Hong Kong and Israel.

Over the course of the three-day event the UK Minister for Disability, Work and Health, Penny Mordaunt, and ministers from Germany, Hong Kong and India also gave keynote speeches.

Roy O’Shaughnessy, Shaw Trust’s chief executive, said: “People with disabilities have more to offer than they are currently being asked to contribute, and this conference has helped us set in motion transformative and world-changing policies and practices to help bring those with disabilities into the mainstreams of work, life and sport.

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“Scotland has much to celebrate in terms of disability empowerment. But as always, more can, and should, be done. Hosting this event was a great way for Scotland to solidify its participation and influence in disability inclusion across the world.”

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon promised to safeguard the needs of disabled people in Scotland.

She said: “I’m very proud of the progress we have made in Scotland. I know that there is still much that we need to learn and do which is why this Congress is so important – not only will it increase our collective understanding of the challenges disabled people face every day, but will also help guide the future actions that we all need to take to deliver a more equal and inclusive world.”

Dr Stephen Duckworth, chairman of the 2016 RI World Congress Programme Board, said: “The World Congress brings together a global network of member countries who work to promote the rights and inclusion of people with disabilities or health problems.

“It is a significant and powerful event which can effect real change across the globe.

“This year’s theme of inclusion aimed to help remove barriers which prevent disabled people from living the life they want. Over the course of three days we have motivated and energised people across the world by bringing new ideas and sharing best practices to help create a society which is better for everyone.”

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