by Safiya Zenobia Mann
From the 13th to the 15th of June 2017, the 10th annual Conference of States Party to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities was held at the United Nations Headquarters in New York. I flew into New York City from the UK two days before the Monday introduction to the other student rapporteurs; volunteering responsibilities training at the UN; and the June 12 Civil Society Forum meetings.
Despite how quickly I had to adjust and get ready for the week ahead, the volunteer training was enjoyable and very informative. In addition to the instructions given by the volunteer coordinator, the Director of the Department of Economic and Social Affairs and the Division for Social Policy and Development (DESA/DSPD), Ms. Daniela Bas, came to speak with us. It was great to see in real time how UN staff collaborate with one another and brainstorm with students about potential ways that educational programs, the next COSP, and the “UN family” (the UN and affiliated international organizations) can make their platforms more inclusive.
I had not been at the UN for three years; so it was wonderful to be there especially to participate in a conference on a very pertinent issue that is globally, personally and academically relevant! For my Master's dissertation, I am focusing on the topic of how disability is approached within international development. So I was excited that outside of the side events run by IDPP, there were several other side events on a broader range of topics, issues, developments and technology than I could have anticipated. They were all hosted by different organizations and chaired by panelists who were experts, persons with disabilities, business or international organization representatives.
An event I found particularly interesting was IDPP's "Monitoring and Evaluation of CRPD and SDG implementation using Big Data Analytics and Text Mining" side event. The abundant data being created through the extensive usage of Internet platforms is a huge resource for data analysts to create user tailored (app) content that focuses on accessibility. For example, the “AXSMap” app where other users can tell you which restaurants or public places are wheelchair accessible using crowdsourcing. The creator of AXSMap, Jason DaSilva likened it to TripAdvisor for persons with physical disabilities. I also found the "Deinstitutionalization" side event hosted by YAI interesting. New York and Tri-state area disability service organization coordinators were in attendance as well as other professionals dealing with the subject of transitioning people with intellectual disabilities out of institutionalized settings. It was very informative, and heartening to hear what the next steps might be for ending the isolating reality of institutionalization.
Overall, it was wonderful to be able to attend the conference, hear about the newest innovations and developments in outlook, programs, and services for persons with disabilities across all walks of life and geographic locations. It was great to see that so much can get done when knowledge exchange is facilitated!
I was also pleased that as a student rapporteur, you were able to genuinely be a participant. If you were not helping that particular session or collaborating with another student with a session’s summary notes you were able to go to side event sessions of your choice, ask questions, meet leaders in the field face to face and hear about the latest research in the area of disability, which was invaluable.
Thanks very much to IDPP, Maya Aguilar and Dr. Cogburn for facilitating such a great experience.
Safiya Mann is a Research Associate at IDPP and a graduate student at the University of Edinburgh. She attended COSP-10 as an IDPP student rapporteur.
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