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IDPP Participates in USAID Disability Conference

USAID conference participants photoInstitute on Disability and Public Policy (IDPP) Director of Technology Mr. Clyde White, Jr. and Research Associate Ms. Kerry Honeycutt attended the U.S. Agency for International Development’s (USAID) From Policy to Action: Making Progress toward Disability Inclusion conference on 30 May 2012 on behalf of the IDPP.

The conference included three panel discussions that featured representatives from President Obama's administration, including Mr. Kareem Dale, Special Assistant to the President for Disability Policy; Ms. Maria Otero, Under Secretary of State for Democracy and Global Affairs at the U.S. Department of State; Ms. Judy Heumann, Special Advisor of International Disability Rights at the U.S. Deptartment of State; and Ms. Charlotte McClain-Nhlapo, Coordinator of Disability Inclusive Development at USAID. The keynote address was given by Mr. Chris Waddell, founder of One Revolution Foundation and the most decorated male skier in paralympic history as the first unassisted paraplegic to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro.

The first panel discussion, Inclusive Policies: Essential Building Blocks for Disability Inclusive Development, featured Ms. Judy Heumann; Dr. Kent Hill, President of World Vision; and Ms. Charlotte McClain-Nhlapo.

Panelists agreed that the disability community must move forward with one voice, and that the pursuit of disability inclusion requires further collaboration. Ms. Heumann asserted that government alone cannot be expected to design and implement disability inclusive programs. Rather, NGOs, civil society leaders, individuals, and governments must work together in order for change to occur. Panelists also discussed education’s role at USAID, in which staff members are now required to take a course on disability inclusive development.

The second panel discussion, Challenging Biases and Empowering Change: Harnessing the Power of Sport to Drive Disability Inclusion, highlighted the capacity of sports as a route to inclusion for persons with disabilities (PWDs). The Paralympic Games and the Special Olympics showcase the capabilities of PWDs. This panel discussion emphasized the role that sports play in raising the public’s awareness in the abilities of PWDs, and how these sporting events can also lead to careers for PWDs.

Walk the Talk: In-house Inclusion in the Workplace, the third panel discussion, featured representatives of the Obama administration, and focused on how the administration is working to increase the number of employees with disabilities in both the public and private sectors. It was noted that USAID has a program in place to hire students with disabilities.

In his address, Mr. Dale described “turning policy into action” as the goal of the Obama Administration. In order to accomplish meaningful action, Mr. Dale stated that qualified leadership is required to carry out vision, and that the leadership team must include PWDs in policy decision-making processes. Ms. Otero closed the conference by confirming the U.S. Department of State’s commitment to providing every person access to his or her rights.

Details in this article are an account from IDPP staff persons who attended the event.