WeThe15: Launching the global movement for 1.2 billion persons with disabilities

Today (19 August), international organisations unite for a decade-long campaign to transform the lives of disabled people around the world. Learn more about the campaign and read our interview with Paralympic athlete Richard Whitehead MBE.

Launched ahead of the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games, WeThe15 aims to end discrimination towards the disabled community and act as a global movement, publicly campaigning for disability visibility, accessibility and inclusion.

Movement

Leading international organisations have united to launch the campaign which aspires to be the biggest ever human rights movement to represent the world’s 1.2 billion persons with disabilities.

Spearheaded by the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) and International Disability Alliance (IDA), WeThe15 brings together the biggest coalition ever of international organisations from the worlds of sport, human rights, policy, business, arts, and entertainment. 

Together these organisations will work with governments, businesses, and the public over the next ten years to initiate change for the world’s largest marginalised group who make up 15% of the global population.

Andrew Parsons, IPC president, says: “WeThe15 aspires to be the biggest ever human rights movement for persons with disabilities and aims to put disability right at the heart of the inclusion agenda, alongside ethnicity, gender and sexual orientation.

“By uniting several leading international organisations and the world’s 1.2 billion persons with disabilities behind one common movement, we will make a tangible and well overdue difference for the planet’s largest marginalised group.”

Utilising the unique ability sport has to engage global audiences and create positive change, the IPC, Special Olympics, Invictus Games Foundation and the International Committee of Sports for the Deaf have teamed up for the first time in history.

Powerful

The four organisations will use the profile of their international sport events and athlete communities to further raise awareness and understanding of the issues facing disabled people around the globe.

“Sport, and events such as the upcoming Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games, are hugely powerful vehicles to engage global audiences,” continues Andrew. “By partnering with Special Olympics, Invictus Games, and Deaflympics, there will be at least one major international sport event for persons with disabilities to showcase WeThe15 each year between now and 2030. 

“These sports events add great value to the campaign and underline the hugely positive impact sport can have on society. I strongly believe WeThe15 could be a real game-changer for persons with disabilities.”

Joining the sport organisations in this decade of action are: International Disability Alliance; UN Human Rights; UNESCO; the UN SDG Action Campaign; the European Commission; The Valuable 500; Global Citizen; Global Disability Innovation Hub; the UN Alliance of Civilizations (UNAOC); International Disability and Development Consortium; C-Talent; Global Goals Advisory; ATscale – the Global Partnership for Assistive Technology; Zero Project; and the Global Alliance of Assistive Technology Organisations (GAATO).

Opportunities

Aligned with the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, WeThe15 aims to change attitudes and create more opportunities by:

  • Putting persons with disabilities at the heart of the diversity and inclusion agenda
  • Implementing a range of activities targeting governments, businesses, and the public to drive social inclusion for persons with disabilities
  • Breaking down societal and systemic barriers that are preventing persons with disabilities from fulfilling their potential and being active members of society 
  • Ensuring greater awareness, visibility, and representation of persons with disabilities 
  • Promoting the role of assistive technology as a vehicle to driving social inclusion 

As he travelled to Tokyo for the 2020 Paralympic Games, we caught up with Richard Whitehead MBE about the importance of the campaign and how he will use his platform to share it’s message.

How are you feeling as you head into the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games?

It’s a great opportunity going into my fourth Games. It’s been a very challenging 18 months for everybody, whether you have got a disability or not. But it will be great to go there, put in a performance that I am proud of, leave 100% on the track and wear that Great Britain tracksuit with pride. 

Importantly, we all want to leave a legacy in Japan and be part of the great performances of hope and aspiration that the Paralympic Games gives.

When did you first hear about the WeThe15 campaign and what was your reaction?

A few months ago. It immediately captured me and now the WeThe15 campaign is something that I’m very passionate about. Having such incredible stakeholder organisations as part of the wider reach of the campaign will have an impact on getting those messages out to a more diverse group of people without disabilities.  

It’s about education, engaging and supporting those less fortunate than ourselves. We need to empower and support every individual and give them the platform for success. Its not about gold medals it about giving every person a feeling of self-worth. Hopefully sport and the WeThe15 campaign will reach out into those areas that haven’t heard about Paralympic sport and possibilities available. 

Why do you feel the campaign important right now?

I’m hoping it will create more mentors in the disability community. I’ve done work in lots of different areas all over the world, doing humanitarian work in Syria, Jordan and Lebanon with charities that have supported the hospitalisation of civilians that have lost their legs all the way through to working in the refugee camps and guiding and mentoring people that have lost limbs towards to be able to go back to their villages or communities. It’s really important to have mentors and role models because seeing is believing, and WeThe15 offers that opportunity. The more people that you have out there doing great work, the better it is for everybody in the world.

In your opinion, why is the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games the right platform and timing for the launch of the campaign?

The reason why it is the right time is because disabled people are one of those groups that have been massively affected by the worldwide pandemic and we don’t want the world’s most marginalised group to be forgotten about. We know that if you work with disabled people, the resilience that we have as people has a positive impact on the community and enhances the workforce or community impact. It enables the able-bodied community to be more empathetic towards disabled people. So I see the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games as an event of hope. 

What change do you hope to see from the campaign over the next 10 years?

For me I would like to see more education around those impairments and disabilities that are hidden. We need to talk to communities about the fact that everybody should have a platform no matter their disability or ability, their gender, religion, or sexuality. The disability conversation needs to be on par with all those agendas. 

How will you be working to promote the campaign during this time?

I will be doing it in messaging in my interviews, talking about the wider reach of sport and the opportunities that gives. I’ll also try and educate those that maybe have a narrow opinion about the disability movement.

I’m also launching the Richard Whitehead Foundation which is going to be working across all disability groups. We are working to support, educate and empower disabled people and educate their communities about the importance of a level playing field. 

We are trustees and founders that have a disability or relationship to disability sport, so we have empathy to the end user and communities around the individual. That’s why the WeThe15 campaign is important because the core values are very similar. 

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