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Students Travel to United Nations HQ In NYC

On June 8, a group of Gallaudet students traveled to United Nations (UN) headquarters in New York City to attend a side event affiliated with the 8th Annual Conference of States Parties to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

Organized by The Nippon Foundation, the side event, entitled “Participation of Persons with Disabilities in the UN System and Broader Global Governance Processes, seeks to develop broader participation of persons with disabilities in global decision-making processes, including UN Conferences.  The result of the discussion is expected to contribute to further inclusion of persons with disabilities in UN agencies, on-going work on the post-2015 development framework, as well as global governance processes.

Panelists at the side event included The Nippon Foundation Chairman, Yohei Sasakawa, a former vice president of Ecuador, various United Nations officials including the Chair of the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, and World Federation of the Deaf President Colin Allen. Panelists commented on how processes within the UN regarding conference accessibility have evolved.

A recent conference held by the UN World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction was noted as a model of how to improve accessibility; for example, it was noted that captioning was provided in both English and Japanese, as well as sign language interpretation if requested, and devices that displayed documents in Braille for blind attendees. As a result of these efforts, as many as 200 persons with disabilities were able to participate in that conference.

“One panelist who said this stood out for me: ‘If you want change, you must actively push for change,'” said Gallaudet senior Lisa van der Mark, a native of the Netherlands, who attended the side event. “Other people will not always take action, so it’s up to you to shape change. I plan to incorporate that advice when I return to my home country.”

Keith Doane, ’14, graduate assistant in the Office of Campus Design and Planning, agreed. “Young people are the key to future development. Use social media and email to the highest advantage. Appear to meetings, participate, be an advocate.”
Doane, who will attend the World Federation for the Deaf in Istanbul, Turkey in late July, believes that Gallaudet students have a voice waiting ahead in global policymaking.

“My overall impression from this conference is that there are so many opportunities for Gallaudet students to work collaboratively with international organizations that focus on disability,” said Doane.

This trip falls in line with the mission of Gallaudet”s Office of Research Support and International Affairs (RSIA), which is, in part, to offer and oversee international and intercultural education opportunities for Gallaudet students and faculty, as well as the global community. Dr. Charles Reilly serves as executive director of RSIA.

“Participating in the UN meeting provided students with knowledge and skills for influencing global policymaking and education to be inclusive of the perspectives of people who are deaf and hard of hearing,” said Reilly.

Joining van der Mark and Doane on this UN visit were students Jason Antal and Sean Maiwald.

The Gallaudet students were moved by their visit to the United Nations headquarters and grateful to The Nippon Foundation for giving them this tremendous opportunity.

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