Did the Global Disability Summit 2018 make an impact? Motivation staff reflect on learning from the event.

It’s been exactly a year since the first ever Global Disability Summit. Those 12 months have whizzed past.

Reflecting on the event, we feel re-energised about all that happened: governments pledging to improve disability inclusion, organisations sharing ambitions to improve assistive technology access, and hundreds of people committing to improve the lives of disabled people worldwide. It was an incredible event.

But what exactly did it achieve? And what has happened since? Our staff have been reflecting on what the Global Disability Summit commitments meant – and continues to mean today.

Amanda Wilkinson, Chief Executive

The Global Disability Summit was the first time that we have ever seen a global commitment to even discussing disability across the international development sector. Governments and big international NGOs, public and private sectors: they all came together to talk about joint responsibility for disability inclusion.

The most important outcome, of course, was the number of commitments from organisations and governments in the charter for change. These were public promises to take a step forward from creating policy frameworks to implementing them. It’s one thing to have legislation in a constitution, but it’s another to make yourself publically accountable. Promises and assurances were made to disabled people. That was something special.

For Motivation, it was thrilling to see assistive technology having platform like we’ve never seen before – even after nearly 30 years in the sector. The event highlighted exactly what we believe: assistive technology is a fundamental right. People were talking about how important it is to improve access – especially with the launch of the AT:2030 and ATscale initiatives. We are delighted to be part of this conversation and the team informing this global initiative.

Since the event, we’ve seen the start of promises turning into action. This is so, so important. We were delighted to give input to DFID’s Disability and Development strategy through the BOND network. And we’ve been very proud to start the wheels turning on our Motivation InnovATe project as part of AT:2030 and ATscale.

We know this is just the start. But it’s an incredibly important first step towards a world that enables greater independence and opportunity for disabled people.

Fred Semakula, Project Manager

My best memory of the Summit was seeing different speakers raising the profile of assistive technology and seeing the pledged support of 500 million people with assistive technology by 2030 through the ATscale. If this is fulfilled by the governments and donor agencies, it will really be a big step towards inclusion of people with disabilities in the world.

It was very exciting to see, hear and meet the different people from the different parts of the world and, most importantly, to see them all committing to support people with disabilities. That level of advocacy continues to make a lasting impression in the minds of people who attended, viewed and read about it. We cannot just bury our heads under the sand when people with disabilities continue to suffer.

My hope for the long lasting impact of the summit is that the high level of advocacy will continue to ring a bell about inclusion of people with disabilities in the development agenda.

Peter Mbuguah, Africa Regional Director

I have been working in the disability sector for the last 20 years and as far as I can tell the Summit was the best thing ever to happen in the sector. Seeing the Government of Kenya being a co-host to such a high-level meeting was very exciting.

The Summit created some new energy and momentum to tackle and deal with disability issues in developing countries.

Like Fred, my best memory of the Summit was the big announcement that by 2030 over 500 million people will have been provided with assistive technology.

The coming together of governments, big companies, non-governmental organisations and disabled people’s organisations to focus on disability with signed commitments…  I hope that converting these commitments to actions and deliverables to persons with disabilities will be the long-lasting impact of the summit.

Clare Childs, Sports Manager

One of my best memories of the Summit was the opportunity to catch up with friends of Motivation across the sector. It was great to reconnect with Amy Farkas Karageorgos, a global disability adviser who was giving support to the Civil Society Forum.

Amy worked at the International Paralympic Committee, when they identified a gap in good quality sports wheelchairs was preventing would-be athletes in low and middle income countries from accessing sport. She connected Motivation with the tennis and wheelchair basketball federations to create wheelchairs for developing sport – as Motivation is celebrating 10 years of sports wheelchair production this year, it was particularly special to reconnect.

The Summit also highlighted concerns from UK communities of disabled people as they protested to highlight local cuts to welfare and support. It was so important to hear those concerns and remember there is a long way to go at home as well as abroad, so that we have a fully inclusive society.  

Our work at Motivation is based on first-hand knowledge that people in developing countries require support and assistance to achieve their potential, too. We exist to facilitate that, while others work in the UK context. With that in mind, though, I felt determined to make as many contacts as possible at the event so that we could get the best value from it and convert that into tangible work to empower the disabled people we work with around the world.

At the event, I also had the opportunity to represent Motivation at the DFID exhibit. I was introducing people to various assistive technology products (wheelchairs, walking sticks and glasses) showing how the UK government and UK people are already supporting people to access their rights, education, healthcare, and to live the lives they choose.

I hope that the event helped to build understanding of the impact these relatively simple and inexpensive products can have on a person’s ability to become mobile and live a fuller, more independent life. I hope the connections and understanding gained at the event will deliver a better outcomes for disabled people living in some of the world’s poorest places.

Biju Mathew, India Regional Director

I felt very motivated seeing the disability sector converge at a global platform and talking about global partnerships. The Motivation exhibit gave us an excellent opportunity to demonstrate our work to a global audience. For me, it was especially great to see the delegation from the Indian ministry visiting our stall.

I was impressed by the fact that disability was at the centre stage and that several governments have since shown their seriousness to engage with disabled people’s organisations, NGOs and the private sector to bring meaningful change in the lives of disable people worldwide.

I believe the Summit ignited fresh interest in the disability sector and has got many players in the field, especially national governments, taking affirmative action on the ground. I’m really hopeful that implementation of these commitments will happen on the ground, and that they are reflective of disabled people’s voices and needs.

David Constantine, Founder Director

To me, disability inclusion means the opportunity to be able to live in society as everyone else. It also means seeing all the opportunities I’ve had in this country everywhere in the world.  That’s why the Global Disability Summit was so important.

The memories I have of the Summit in 2018 are really positive. It saw governments – including in the UK – commit to making changes for disabled people worldwide. Importantly assistive devices, which are crucial to making sure nobody is left behind, were talked about more seriously than ever before.

The change I’ve seen since the Summit is that assistive devices are now much more on the agenda. For example, we've seen funding being put forward for the design of assistive technology through ATscale. It allows Motivation, for example, to develop new ways of doing our work and making even greater impact for disabled people in developing countries.

Since the Global Disability Summit, Motivation has been able to move forwards with our exploration of finding new ways to provide assistive technology. Follow our journey with #MotivationInnovATe.