Global Disability Summit, London 2018

UK Secretary of State for International Development, Penny Mordant made the progressive decision to present her opening statement at the first Global Disability Summit in British Sign Language (BSL). Launching substantial UK governmental commitments to provide DFID funding to global programmes with disability objectives, Penny Mordant took the important step of publicly affirming the importance of WHO led initiatives to provide 500m people globally with the essential assistive technology they need by 2030.

Currently 90% of the world have no current access to the Assistive Technology (AT) they need, ranging from spectacles and hearing aids to manual wheelchairs and crutches. These devices are vital to those who need them and through the scaling up of global production and provision, millions of people’s lives will be transformed.

Attending the summit was a hugely uplifting experience. Disability issues and foci are often seen as peripheral objectives in mainstream programming, but to those of us living with disability or working and caring for someone, we understand how the daily life of individuals and their families could be radically changed if principles of universal design, inclusive education and quality AT were made available to everyone around the world who would benefit from them.

The global AT movement is growing in momentum and one of those helping to lead the charge is business leader Paul Polman, Unilever CEO, whose keynote called for fundamental shifts in the current perception of disability, including the semantic change from the use of the term ‘disability’ to ‘diffability‘. To witness a global conference where even the defining title of the event is called into question, gives you some idea of what shifts in perceptions are materialising. The summit brought together international big business, DPO’s, governments and NGO’s in a way that we have never seen before. We applaud it and look forward to seeing other leaders like Penny Mordant, making tangible connections with those among us around the world who are the least seen and heard.