Empowering people of determination takes centre stage on opening day of Expo 2020’s Tolerance & Inclusivity Week

DUBAI, 14 November 2021 – A forum on building more accessible, inclusive societies to empower people of determination kicked off Expo 2020’s Tolerance & Inclusivity Week on Sunday, 14 November, the first of seven days of stimulating and essential conversations around key topics such as accessibility, indigenous communities and cultures, as well as peace and security.

The first day of Expo’s latest Theme Week, one of ten Theme Weeks across the 182 days of Expo that form a key pillar of the World Expo’s Programme for People and Planet, touched on numerous topics related to improving the lives of those living with disabilities.

Grantees supported under Expo’s global innovation and partnership programme Expo Live, ‘WheeLog!’, ‘Coactus’, ‘Incluyeme’ and ‘BeMyEyes’, took part in ‘Coming Full Circle | Designing for All’ – the week’s first event at The Nexus for People and Planet in the Opportunity District – and a forum in which each highlighted how their innovative and creative solutions are enhancing lives across the world.

With 30 million unemployed people living with disabilities in South and Central America, ‘Incluyeme’ is the first online job portal in the region aimed at helping this group find work, by partnering with large companies including Accenture.

“People with disabilities need physical and digital access to be able to join the workforce,” its founder and CEO Gabriel Marcolongo said. “Unfortunately we have companies that are not doing anything at all, and then we have companies that are increasingly active in providing jobs to the disabled.”

“My company works with 500 companies across Latin America. I believe that with increasing awareness more and more companies are beginning to understand the importance of integrating people with disabilities into the workforce.”

Also present was Korean start-up ‘Coactus’, which focuses on upskilling and employing hearing-impaired people within the taxi industry. It has developed a tool called ‘Goyohan’ that helps communication in taxis driven by deaf people. Denmark’s ‘BeMyEyes’ is a free app that connects blind and low-vision people with sighted volunteers and company representatives from all over the world for visual assistance through a live video call.

Sunday’s agenda at the Nexus also saw various ‘lightning talks’. Kera Sherwood O’Regan, an indigenous and disabled multidisciplinary storyteller and rights advocate from New Zealand’s Aotearoa, said: “The only way to achieve inclusiveness is to have good relationships with each other. We have to keep those conversations going between people with disabilities and the non-disabled. Real inclusiveness can come from hearing stories and amplifying the voices of the disabled community.”

O’Regan is the Co-Founder and Impact Director at Activate Agency, an indigenous and disabled social impact agency specialising in campaigning for social change, with a particular emphasis on indigenous and disability rights, alongside climate justice.

“Persons with disabilities and older persons continue to face multiple forms of discrimination and exclusion because of inaccessibility and social environments,” added Dr Sandra Willis, Director of Learning and Knowledge Development, Pineda Foundation. “Unemployment among persons with disabilities is between 80 to 90 per cent in the southern hemisphere and 50 to 70 per cent in the northern hemisphere. A better quality of life for all in an urbanising world is the right of persons with disabilities and the elderly.”

Running from 14-20 November and held in association with the UAE Ministry of Tolerance and Coexistence, Tolerance and Inclusivity Week seeks to drive conversations on how social spaces, physical environments, and modes of storytelling can be rendered more inclusive, with the aim of fostering multiculturalism and peaceful co-existence.

Other topline events across the week include the Women’s World Majlis at the Women’s Pavilion on 17 November, which will explore how the UAE established its Ministry of Tolerance and Coexistence to encourage greater prominence for women in the workplace, and how it is particularly relevant in times of recovery, post-crisis.