Cairo – With the ancient pyramids of Giza as their witness, around fifty Egyptian differently abled athletes completed today the Egypt Walk for the Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities (PwD) to highlight the importance of assistive technologies in expanding horizons of independence and public participation of PwD in Egypt. Endurance sports professional and the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) Goodwill Ambassador for Arab States, Michael Haddad, accompanied them on the walk.
“I was happy to participate today with this distinguished group of Egyptian young women and men, who arm themselves with sport to challenge a wide range of disabilities, asserting themselves and their right to actively participate in all social and economic activities,” said HE Dr Ashraf Sobhy, Minister of Youth and Sports under whose patronage the walk was organized. "Egypt has made great achievements in the past few years to integrate and empower persons with disabilities and safeguard their rights, which we will celebrate next week in the annual presidential conference entitled “Differently Abled,” he added.
“The Egypt walk for Inclusion gives a regional and global dimension to the ‘Differently Abled’ presidential conference, and sheds light on Egypt’s efforts towards the empowerment and inclusion of Persons with Disabilities”, said Amal Mobadda, Chairwomen of the Egyptian Sports Federation for Intellectual Disabilities, which organized the walk in partnership with UNDP, under the auspices of the Ministry of Youth and Sports and in collaboration with the Ministry of Tourism & Antiquities.
“In adopting Agenda 2030 and its associated Sustainable Development Goals, world leaders made a solemn promise to inclusiveness and to leaving no one behind. Assistive technologies that facilitate the lives of persons with disabilities and enhance their participation in their communities, play an important role in achieving that promise," said Randa Aboul Hosn, UNDP Resident Representative in Egypt. “We are pleased to cooperate with all relevant authorities to support efforts aimed at providing appropriate assistive technologies for all, developing them and producing them locally," she added.
Persons with disabilities represent 10-15% of the world’s population, exceeding a billion people, of whom about 12 million live in Egypt. They depend on various kinds of assistive technologies, which help them perform basic daily functions that otherwise may be difficult or sometimes seem impossible. These technologies range from simple ones, such as movement-supporting aids, including crutches and hand-wheelchairs, to intermediate and advanced technologies, including computer- and mobile-phone-based devices and software to aid hearing, vision, speech and memory, and state-of-the-art electronic and mechanical artificial limbs and prosthetic devices.
“We were delighted to host this walk today at the Giza Pyramids complex, confirming Egypt's commitment to rendering its most revered global cultural heritage monuments, accessible to all humanity, without barriers,” said HE Dr Kahled ElAnani, Minister of Tourism and Antiquities. “Disability-inclusive tourism is not only one of our most important products, but we consider it, as well, a moral responsibility and a commitment to ensure that all Egyptians, and all citizens of the world, enjoy and appreciate the achievements of the world's most ancient civilization,” he added.
Outside his home country Lebanon, the Egypt Walk is the first of a series, which Michael Haddad seeks to perform across the world, under his initiative "Stepping Ahead of COVID." The walks aim to raise awareness and mobilize resources to help mitigate the negative impacts of the pandemic on the most affected groups - especially persons with disabilities - and to call for a green and inclusive post-pandemic recovery. Haddad is performing the series as part of his role as UNDP’s Regional (Arab States) Goodwill Ambassador of for Climate Action.
"Today, I was honoured to join my sisters and brothers of differently abled Egyptian athletes to send together a message of hope and determination to work tirelessly to promote the full participation of persons with disabilities in Egypt, across the Arab region, and indeed the whole world, in all aspects of life, in equality and without
barriers,” said Michael Haddad. "There is no other place that I would have wanted to start this global endeavour from other than Egypt—mother of the world, as we say, which occupies a very special place of appreciation in my heart, shared by many in the region and globally."
Haddad is an endurance athlete, who was paralyzed from the chest down as a child. He has devised his own unique “step-to-gait” method of movement, using a high-tech exoskeleton to stabilize his chest and legs. His method currently inspires research at the American University of Beirut and the Lebanese American University, among others, which holds promise to millions of people with similar disability.
“As we strive together to achieve the sustainable development goals across the world, today’s walk plays a decisive role to draw attention to necessity of seizing the opportunity to benefit from the potential of technology and innovation to change lives for the better in all areas, from eliminating poverty to reducing inequality to ensuring access to quality education,” said Achim Steiner, UNDP Administrator, in his tribute video message to the walk. “Michael and his fellow Egyptian differently abled athletes, through their walk today, are the best people who can demonstrate the importance of putting such potential of technology at centre stage”
Learn more about the walk
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