Nothing About Us Without Us


International Day of Disabled Persons 2021

Nothing About Us Without Us – Persons with Disabilities can no longer be Ignored

Irish Development Organisation issues important call to action on International Day of Disabled Persons as NGOs came together to discuss the challenge of stimulating a leadership commitment to disability inclusion within all organisations.

Viatores Christi, an NGO with over 60 years of experience in international development, hosted CEOs from some of Europe’s leading disability organisations working within the humanitarian and development sector this week as part of an online conference. This conference was held at the end of a 2-year EU AID funded project called VIVID T around inclusion of persons with disabilities in international humanitarian aid.

Shane Halpin CEO Viatores Christi told the conference in his opening remarks that “Over 1.3 billion people across the world live with some form of disability. A truly remarkable number – yet how many organisations are really ‘inclusive’ in terms of how they operate, the services they offer, the policies that are made? The tide is turning” he said, “and all organisations, whether in the private or public sector need to pay attention to the fact that this segment of our population can no longer be ignored.”  Viatores Christi has also produced a video to call on leaders to take action and engage in disability inclusion.

The conference session with sector leaders sought to raise and discuss key issues for CEOs looking to do more in terms of accessibility, and inclusion within their organisations.

David Bainbridge Executive Director of CBM Global highlighted a number of important starting blocks for leadership teams, including the requirement for senior management to champion inclusion within their organisations, an initiative that really comes about through education and awareness.

Sean Copleand CEO of Tearfund Ireland agreed that action must start somewhere and filter down through the organisation, reminding us that 15% of the world’s population is living with a disability either acquired or from birth.

Dr Birendra Pokarel of Abilis Nepal, who himself has a visual impairment, informed the conference of the success his work has achieved in Nepal his sensitisation of the issue resulted in drafting disability rights in the constitution of Nepal.

“We need to start small and take practical steps recognising the value of the person, the ability and not focus on the disability” said Marjo Heinonen, Executive Director of Abilis Foundation Finland.  Abilis is an Organisation of Persons with Disabilities and as such have considerable lived experience in this area.  Marjo says we all need to become role models, our organisations can help to lead the way to change.

In summing up Sarah O’Toole from CBM Ireland told attendees that “the community of practice that has been formed as a result of this VIVID engagement is quite unique as the organisations have cross fertilised from their traditional sectors of focus thereby have been enriched and converted to new ways of thinking.”  She reinforced the need for us all, including donors to aim for a robust inclusion process to leave no one behind.

Shane Halpin, CEO VC – Viatores Christi, 8 New Cabra Rd, Phibsboro, Dublin 7