On September 4, the House of Journalists in Yekaterinburg hosted a press-conference themed in the First World Congress for persons with disabilities. Among the speakers there were Thomas Kraus (the chairman of the international organization committee, Germany), Andrey Zlokazov (the Minister of social policy of the Sverdlovsk region), Oleg Kolpashchikov (member of the international organization committee, president of WHITE CANE NGO). The meeting gathered members of socially-engaged associations of the region, delegates of the Congress from Sweden, Germany, France, Norway, and people from different media platforms.
Thomas Kraus opened the conference with a greeting of the participants. He shared his memories:
“Two years ago I didn’t believe that the First World Congress would take place in Russia. Vera Simarova (head of Blagoe Delo NGO) suggested Yekaterinburg as a possible location. Then we started to plan the event and counted on hosting 700 participants. Today we have this number confirmed — 711 delegates from 28 countries, Russia included, are participating in the Congress. Our dream has come true.”
Andrey Zlokazov commented that it would have been impossible to organize such an event without the support of the government of the Sverdlovsk region and of the locally-based socially-engaged associations, businesses and volunteers. Members of the All-Russian Society of People with Disabilities, association of people with disabilities and veterans of armed conflicts “Arsenal”, “Ural bez narkotikov”, Rotary-club and others supported the event.
According to Oleg Kolpashchikov, the Congress is most valuable for it stimulates global dialogue on inclusion of people with disabilities in the society; it helps make one shared inclusive space. The organizers are confident that the First World Congress will produce real substantial effects for people with disabilities and the society as a whole.
One of the visible results of the Congress is the building of accessible environment in Yekaterinburg, which took place in the course of preparation to the Congress, alongside emerging changes in social attitudes to people with disabilities and the ongoing global exchange of successful rehabilitation and inclusion practices.