Special events, ones you know you will never forget, often come amidst a hectic itinerary such as at the end of year. So it was with our Disability Inclusion Action Plan experiential event in early December 2022.
It had been a long and busy year with the whole United Nations team in Albania delivering work under their joint workplans for United Nations Sustainable Development Cooperation Framework 2022-2026. This is the UN teams common plan with government to deliver on the Sustainable Development Goals. It focuses on building human capital and social inclusion, green economy, environmental management and climate change and governance, human rights and gender equality. This year, Albania was also selected to pilot the Secretary General’s Disability Inclusion Strategy of June 2019. The strategy is ambitious, aiming to embed change processes across the organisation, to demonstrate how our own work can also help to implement human rights instruments such as the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) and push the equality focus in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
A Disability Inclusion Action Plan for Albania was prepared to initiate changes in four key areas: in leadership, strategic planning and management, on inclusiveness – with activities consultation, improvements to physical accessibility and on procurement of goods and services, in areas of programming aiming at better data, monitoring and evaluation and focus on joint programmes and to make changes in the organisational culture through employment and better communication. United Nations colleagues with different experiences in their own lives and from across the agencies contributed to drafting and then implementing the action plan.
With efforts across all areas of the action plan underway, to mark the International Day of Persons with Disabilities on 5 December, colleagues joined a thought-provoking experiential event exposing them to the difficulties persons with disabilities can experience every day. During a social programme and curated by Downs Syndrome, Albania, RCO and UNICEF invited UN colleagues to experience situations where they had difficulty orientating themselves, or understanding what was happening, where their fine motor and coordination abilities were deliberately impaired. They experienced suddenly being blind, only able to navigate with use of stick, not being able to see, to hear properly or use their hands or feet as they usually do. Volunteers were asked to read text as persons with dyslexia might see it or to perform simple tasks disorientated by the sudden onslaught of noise or sudden changes in lighting as persons on a spectrum of autism might have to cope. In spectacular contrast we also heard the beautiful voices of Blerina and Niko, two talented young artists spreading much joy, happiness and in celebrating their musical abilities.
Disability comes in different forms. We all learnt that to be inclusive first we need to understand ourselves what it means to live with barriers. Then fight to put in place inclusive procedures and opportunities and focus on how to accommodate the particular requirements of persons with disabilities and enable them to participate fully and equally in our work and all spheres of society.
We invite you to watch a short video prepared by our team and also commit to make disability inclusion a reality that works for everyone.