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‘Biggest ever’ disability campaign WeThe15 aims to help end discrimination by 2030

Written by on 17/08/2021

Global organisations have united to launch what they are calling the “biggest ever human rights movement” towards inclusion for the world’s 1.2 billion disabled people.

The campaign called WeThe15 aims to end discrimination and improve the lives of disabled people across the world by publicly campaigning for accessibility and inclusion.

It takes its name from the fact that disabled people make up 15% of the world’s population and represent the world’s largest marginalised group.

Launched ahead of the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games and spearheaded by the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) and the International Disability Alliance (IDA), WeThe15 will work over the next decade with governments, businesses and the wider public to bring about change.

Tokyo Tower (front) and Tokyo Skytree (rear) are lit up by three colors lights for countdown of Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games in Tokyo on August 25. Pic: AP
Image: Tokyo Tower (front) and Tokyo Skytree (rear) are lit up by three colors lights for countdown to the 2020 Paralympic Games. Pic: AP

The IPC, Special Olympics, Invictus Games Foundation and the International Committee of Sports for the Deaf (Deaflympics) have teamed up for the first time in history to help publicise the campaign.

The quartet will use the profile of their respective sport events to further raise awareness and understanding of the issues facing disabled people around the globe.

Andrew Parsons, president of the IPC, believes WeThe15 could be a “real gamechanger” and the “biggest ever human rights movement for persons with disabilities”. He also hopes the upcoming Paralympics will “engage global audiences and showcase the campaign”.

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The campaign will last for 10 years, during which time Mr Parson hopes to finally put disability “right at the heart of the inclusion and diversity debate, alongside ethnicity, gender and sexual orientation”.

He added: “By uniting several leading international organisations and the world’s 1.2 billion persons with disabilities behind one common movement, we will make a tangible and well overdue difference for the planet’s largest marginalised group.”

Paralympic runner Richard Whitehead
Image: Paralympic runner Richard Whitehead wants to inspire long-term change

For athletes like Paralympic runner Richard Whitehead this Paralympic Games, which start next Wednesday, mean more than just winning gold. It’s a chance to inspire long-term change.

He told Sky News: “We as disabled people need to see it to believe it’s possible and that’s in all areas of life whether that’s sport, that’s entertainment, or in the work place.

“When we get our medals, we go home and we’re still disabled people with so many obstacles and challenges in our lives.”

WeThe15 will also work across different industries including business, media and the arts, to break down societal and systemic barriers facing disabled people outside of sport.

Kelly Gordon, entrepreneur and campaigner, notes that the disability conversation often revolves around sport which can be “frustrating”.

She told Sky News: “After the Paralympics, everyone assumes you’re a Paralympian or have the desire to be one.

“I am an entrepreneur, I have three businesses and I also have two children.”

Mum Kelly Gordon says the conversation around disability can be 'frustrating'
Image: Mum Kelly Gordon says the disability conversation often revolves around sport which can be ‘frustrating’

In employment and education, WeThe15 is seeking to highlight the importance of assistive technology in creating equal opportunities.

“Having access to assistive technology can make the difference between failure and success in school, or between a job and unemployment,” said Jon Lomoy, board chair of At Scale – the global partnership for assistive tech.

The UN, the European Commission and several human rights groups also back the campaign.

WeThe15 is aligned with the UN 2030 agenda for sustainable development and the convention on the rights of persons with disabilities.

Michelle Bachelet, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, said: “WeThe15 is bringing together a unique group of partners – disability-specific sports organisations, the disability rights movement, people from the private sector, researchers and the United Nations – to work together to change the narrative on disability, and to make human rights-based development a reality for persons with disabilities.”

To mark the campaign launch more than 85 international landmarks were lit up on Wednesday evening in the colour purple, which is widely recognised by campaigners as representing the spending power of disabled people. These include the Empire State Building, the Coliseum and the London Eye.

Muenster Cathedral in Bern, Switzerland illuminated in purple to highlight the "Wethe15" campaign Pic: AP
Image: Muenster Cathedral in Bern, Switzerland illuminated in purple to highlight the “Wethe15” campaign Pic: AP

Meanwhile, platforms such as Instagram and Snapchat are showing solidarity with purple filters, and a 90-second-long film will air on TV worldwide from Thursday.

 Sky News

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