My Double Encounter: From Philippines to Cancun and New York

by Della Leonor

I always thought these things only happen in movies. One moment you are alone and the next you click your user name and password and a whole other world awaits your very curious persona. Navigating the Double Robot as a person with a physical disability brought my fantasy to reality. 

From my home in the Philippines, I attended the Global Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) in Cancun, Mexico in May 2017 and the Conference of States Parties to the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in New York City in June. 

DRR gave me a chance to have fascinating encounters with many wonderful individuals who wanted a glimpse of the robot or wanted to take pictures of me wherever I go. As I drove the Double in the conference lobby, I felt a new sense of joy and amazement; Such technology is an important tool to bridge the communication gaps within the community. It was definitely a wonderful and unforgettable experience. As I used the escalator via the Double, I felt like I had conquered my fear of using escalators.

What made this Double Encounter complete was that I got to spend more than two hours walking around with Professor Derrick Cogburn checking out the exhibit like I was physically there in Mexico, We had coffee, we sat with other members of the PWD Community to share viewpoints and discuss plans for the future.

The highlights of the DRR conference for me was being able to give a three minute speech through the Double and meeting UN Deputy Secretary General Amina J. Mohammed of Nigeria. I was proud to represent the PWD group at the conference and make an impression on the Deputy Secretary General. She even called the robot a great technological advancement for promoting inclusion. 

I go another chance to use the Double at the 10th Conference of States Parties (COSP-10) in New York on June 13-15. Simply being able to attend the side events gave me a new sense of hope for the inclusion of persons with disabilities. Once again, the Double was very popular with conference attendees who wanted to take pictures while I was navigating the hallways. This was the first time that technology of this kind was used at the COSP and I was proud to have been a part of history being made. It was a liberating and powerful experience. 

Simple, sleek and easy-to-use, the Double encounter gave me a new sense of hope that someday, accessibility will no longer be an issue in the world.

Della Leonor is a Program Associate at the Institute of Disability and Public Policy and is based in the Philippines.

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