Photo Credit: The Open Hands Institute
Dec 03
December 3, 2014

Honoring the International Day of Persons with Disabilities


According to United Nations (UN) estimates, 1 billion people globally are living with a disability, 80 percent of who reside in developing countries. Today marks International Day of Persons with Disabilities, established by the UN in 1992 to raise awareness of disability issues and to uphold the dignity and rights of this population around the world. Read about four CGI members who, through their Commitments to Action, are working to create more inclusive economic, political, and social environments for persons with disabilities.

Open Hands Initiative Comic Book

The Open Hands Initiative (OHI) made a commitment in 2010 to increase dialogue and understanding between the Arab and Muslim world and the United States by bringing together youth disability self-advocates from both areas. Since the commitment was announced, a Youth Ability Summit was held in 2010 in Damascus, where 26 young people created the world’s first cross-cultural superhero with disabilities—the Silver Scorpion.

The comic book follows the adventures of the Silver Scorpion and his superhero friends, each of whom have a different disability and represent American and Middle Eastern values and cultures. Several issues of the comic book have been distributed across Syria, the United States, Egypt, and Lebanon to NGOs, schools, and the public. In Egypt and Lebanon, training workshops and awareness raising forums were introduced simultaneous with distribution, and in 2012, the comic book series was animated into a web series and distributed through the MTV Voices’ youth network to an audience of more than 10 million viewers. Watch the animated trailer introducing the Silver Scorpion, narrated by Tim Curry, below.

Animated Trailer of the Silver Scorpion (Featuring Tim Curry)

IT Work-study Program for Disadvantaged Youth

Digital Divide Data (DDD) made a Commitment to Action in 2008 to help 1,000 disadvantaged youth in South Asia—with a special focus on those who are disabled—by providing training, job opportunities, and access to higher education. The commitment aimed to generate $70 million in increased lifetime earnings and to empower a new generation to lead.

Since announcing their commitment, DDD has achieved their original targets and has completed their Commitment to Action. More than 1,000 youth have entered DDD’s work-study program and of those participants, 50 percent are young women and approximately 10 percent are youth with disabilities. DDD will continue to scale its work in Africa and will explore bringing their work to Latin America and to the United States.

Disabilities: Social & Financial Inclusion for Women & Girls

In 2013, Keystone Human Services made a commitment to improve the social and financial inclusion of young women and girls with disabilities in the United States and Eastern Europe. Through this commitment, Keystone aimed to deinstitutionalize women and girls with disabilities, provide them with community-based support structures, and develop a program to establish a workforce model that was inclusive and reduced obstacles to employment for women with disabilities and women caregivers of children with disabilities.

By April 2014, Keystone had implemented a transitional employment program that provided training in business skills and mentoring for women, ultimately leading them to obtain employment and form their own micro-enterprises. Several women have also been transitioned out of state institutions and relocated into their communities. Keystone is now contracted with the Department of Disabilities in the State of Connecticut and Washington, D.C. to provide services to women in their communities. 

BRAC Limb and Brace Center in Haiti

In 2010, BRAC made a commitment to build a limb and brace center in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, building on the success of their similarly run sustainable centers in Bangladesh. The BRAC Limb and Brace Center (the Center) provides prosthetics and orthotics services for Haitians, namely those injured in the devastating 2010 earthquake.

Since opening in September 2010, the Center has served 3,123 patients and has assisted an additional estimated 15,600 people indirectly by providing prosthetic, orthotic, and physiotherapy services, as well as referrals for livelihood and counseling for patients and family. The Center currently offers patients use of a tiered payment plan which allows them to pay only what they can afford for the treatment and services they need.

Disability Rights as Human Rights

In 2013, CGI U students Kristin Duquette, Sean Snyder, and Charley Wedeen committed to promote a greater understanding of disability rights by launching an annual event called A Day in A Wheelchair. The goal was to place able-bodied students in wheelchairs for a period of 12-48 hours and combine the experience with a structured discussion on disability rights.

By December 2013, the team successfully completed the first A Day in a Wheelchair event at Trinity College. With a $2,000 budget, they secured 33 wheelchairs and engaged 40 volunteers and participants. Film students at Trinity College recorded the event and created videos expressing their interpretation of the project and disability rights, which inspired additional professors on campus to incorporate disability issues into their academic curriculum. The team hopes to expand their project to colleges across the United States and the world.