Egypt Walk for Inclusion:
Access to Assistive Technologies can help millions of Persons with Disabilities to live independently and with dignity
By Noran Said and Hoda El Nahlawy
At the foot of the iconic Giza Pyramids in Egypt on 18 December, key Egyptian public figures, Government officials, athletes, and persons with disabilities (PWDs) gathered to participate in Egypt’s Walk for Inclusion- a 5-kilometer (10,000 steps) walk- with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Regional Goodwill Ambassador for Climate Action, Michael Haddad, to promote and advocate for the better production and use of assistive technologies for the inclusion of persons with disabilities.
Michael Haddad, an endurance athlete who is paralyzed from the chest down has devised his own unique “step-to-gait” method of movement, using an exoskeleton to stabilize his chest and legs, allowing him to walk.
At the walk’s starting line, Haddad was joined by H.E. Minister of Youth and Sports, Dr. Ashraf Sobhy, Minister Social Solidarity, H.E. Dr. Nivine Kabbaj and UNDP Egypt Resident Representative, Ms. Randa Aboul-Hosn, along with hundreds of attendees, to send a message to Egypt and the world: the inclusion of PWDs is a right, not just a promise to Leave No One Behind, and that the socio- economic inclusion of PWDs through assistive technologies is a must.
Michael Haddad: “PWDs cannot be ignored. In Egypt, 12 million people live with a type of disability and in a country with an average family size of 5 members, if we ignore PWDs, we are effectively ignoring 60 million people who are affected by PWDs.
Persons with disabilities make up 10–15% of the world’s population — about 1 billion people in the world- who 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 wheelchairs, to intermediate and advanced technologies, such as computer,mobile and 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.
Along the route, Michael Haddad and participants paused to highlight specific disabilities, greet fellow Egyptians living with disabilities as they also join the walk for inclusion. Haddad stopped 5 times along the 5 KM trail, meeting Egyptians living with physical and cognitive disabilities, blindness, burn victims, hearing impairments, and people living with dwarfism. He reiterated the importance of their full participation in all aspects of life as they all joined to raise awareness on the importance of assistive technologies to their empowerment and independence, and the independence of the 12 million Egyptians who are also PWDs.
The second part of the walk was joined by H.E. Minister of Tourism and Antiquities, Dr. Khaled El-Enany, as the participants made their way to the Great Pyramids of Giza to highlight the importance of disability- inclusive tourism.
The minister expressed his happiness that the walk took place at the Giza Pyramids and emphasized that “Egypt supports inclusive tourism, making its landmarks accessible to everyone without any barriers and that the government of Egypt strives to achieve this goal as its a social responsibility and commitment to all Egyptians and foreigners, to enjoy the oldest and most ancient civilization in the world.”
The Egypt Walk for Inclusion was organized in partnership with the Ministry of Youth and Sports, the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities and the Egyptian Sports Federation for Intellectual Disabilities and with the participation of Ministry of social solidarity. The Egypt walk is part of a UNDP regional initiative “Stepping Ahead of COVID-19” led by Goodwill Ambassador as he undertakes a series of walks in several Arab States aimed at raising awareness on PWDs and access to Assistive technologies, in addition to mobilizing resources to help mitigate the adverse impacts of the pandemic on the most vulnerable and advocate for an inclusive and green post-pandemic recovery.
Follow the conversation online using #EgyptWalk4Inclusion and watch the live coverage of the walk
Noran Said, Communication assistant UNDP Egypt and Hoda El Nahlawy, Communication Associate Regional Hub in Amman