I am Lobna Smida from Tunisia, I have been elected as a honorary member in many Arab and Occidental Associations. In 2013, I have been successful to change a law that deprived Persons with Disability (PwDs) from participating in any program in case they need a companion. And now the senators that were present have intervened and the organization has changed it into: “What are the needs of you as a participant in this fellowship program: Do you need a wheelchair, a white stick, and if you need someone to come with you as a companion, please would you mention that by filling in the Programme of Fellowship Participation (PFP)? In 2013, I was interviewed in CAN TV as I presented a project titled: “Disability & Tourism,” which was appreciated by the U.S State’ Department officers, some senators and the U.S Embassy in Tunisia.
🎥 ADAPT: Disability Rights in Tunisia - YouTube
In 2015, I have become the President of the ITU headquarters for PwDs in the Arab Region under the umbrella of the U.N. After presenting my project "Disability & Technology.” I have been invited to represent Switzerland in the World Telecommunication Development Conference in 2014, (WTDC-14) held by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) in Dubai
🎥 WTDC-14 INTERVIEWS: Lobna Smida, Administrator, Presidential …
I was surprised in the World Summit of Information Society (WSIS) by being a champion and not a simple winner as my project was ranked the 4th in the international level and the 1st in its category C3 and I was given the WSIS Prize2016 by the General Secretary of The ITU headquarters on May 4th , 2016. I was asked to do a speech by the UN on May 5th in it's headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland.
Lately, I was so pleased to be elected as the Deputy of the Vice President (DVP) in the RI for the Arab region/North Africa during the meeting of both the General Assembly (GA) and the Executive Committee (EC) during the 1st RI Foundation (RIF) on October 24th, 2016. The most important thing to be mentioned is the fact that I am a lady with a deep physical disability. Yet, my nomination by the new RIF to be one of its EC’s members has proven to be an “RIF for All”, and I will surely have the responsibility of authenticating that I am in the level of its expectations.
Indeed, during my first participation as a member of the EC together with the GA meeting in Beijing, I have been amazed by the ardour that the new RIF’s President, Ms. Haidi, had along with both the EC’s and the GA’s members; they have been listening to me with a spirit of collaboration, good attention and respect that have been shared by all of us.
Well, as the RIF encompasses the whole world, I am looking for a deep breath for a fresh and new start, through it, I will be able to sow the seeds of hope, comfort and safety for all people with disabilities. Therefore, I wish through the RIF, to get the chance to highlight what are the main disability issues in both the African countries as well as in the Arab Region that I represent- being the Deputy of the Vice President (DPV) in the Arab Region/North Africa- where my country is, and being also a person living in the Arab Region. Indeed, being an international advocate of the rights of PwDs, my position in the two branches of the RI-Arab Region/RI-North Africa grants me the legitimacy to observe the situation of other societies including those which are in the Middle East and the Gulf. I, personally, think that these countries have no accurate percentages or numbers of PwDs: How many they are? What are their financial situations? Do they have the inclusive environment to be integrated within their own societies or not? Are their families supported by the governments and what are the roles of all the RIF’s branches along with what they have changed in their communities during the last years? Did the different re-elected RIF’s Vice Presidents add some new worth-mentioning strategies with the funds given to them from the RI Foundation since so many years ago? This particular wondering is to observe the RIF's branches through meticulous regular reports, to know better who are really working and to encourage them by conferring upon them more furtherance to give them a boost. I deem the existing organizations that are established in nations who are serving PwDs’ need to work together, not compete for funds. The goal of the RIF go hand in hand with the ‘Human Rights’, it is essentially to integrate the PwD into the normal workplace and daily life of the society as much as possible. This is a matter of the heart. No government edicts can force the acceptance of PwDs. And if needed, some of the non-active branches must be trimmed to keep the RIF healthy and stronger with only its fruitful branches.
To my mind, working within the the RIF is like stepping on the threshold of the world of my dreams.I can even venture to say that I love to be able to chase my kaleidoscopic targets within such a reverent international organization as the RI to get more hidden competence of some teenagers who are able and willing with me to serve it, to voice the ‘voiceless’ and be closer to PwDs to empower them to take their decisions by themselves without the guardianship of some other persons respecting the CRPD’s Article N°19. In this context, and with bitterness, I have recently noticed that most of the CRPD articles are not respected in some countries that signed it up. In the Arab region, for instance, and elsewhere, I think that the RIF still need an accurate data and a constant clear-cut reports of how the RIF’s endowments are spent as social protection approaches could be applied. In this frame, I was amazed by the new financial procedures that the new RIF President has chosen and I voted for it ardently as one of the EC members together with the GA members. Indeed, the astute reader of this book of “Life” only can notice the errors.
The aforementioned steps could be reinforced concretely by creating an integrative, accessible and inclusive networking through experts who are interested in this topic and I am working now with Eng. Nabil Eid who is dedicating all his time and knowledge to write digital book ensure real as well as digital freedom, entertainment, security and employment for PwD. I have here some links to have a look at his 3 free books put online:
Nabil Eid: “Providing Strategic Disability Inclusion and Accessibility Expert in the MENA Region”
Publish works for Nabil Eid at Ruh Global Communications:
Publications, Books and Initiatives at LinkedIn:
Free eBooks published by Nabil Eid
•English E-Book: “Disability and Bridging the Digital Divide. ICT Accessibility and Assistive Technology For People of All Abilities.” These are free eBook and can be downloaded through Ruh Global Communication website! From here:
•Arabic E-Book: “Disability and Bridging the Digital Divide. ICT Accessibility and Assistive Technology For People of All Abilities.” Arabic e-Books also will be free and available at Ruh Global Communication website in the end of April 2017. So, I will provide you the link to download.
• “Arabic encyclopedia on Disability for Researchers,” which is a free e-Book and can be downloaded through Ruh Global Communication.
•Arabic E-Book: “Success Stories on Information and Communication Technologies,” “ARAB COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT: Lessons Learned.” These two free e-books are available at the Arab League Educational Cultural and Scientific Organization- ALECSO platform: https://t.co/qDk9rx3ft
•Arabic E-Book: “ICT for Development Communities in MENA Region,” 2013. “Arabic Telecentre Community,” which was released by Telecentre Foundation- TCF. It is a free e-book and can be downloaded through TCF from this link:
Mr. Nabil Eid's Facebook Page is: ICT and Accessibility for PWDs
I have to request from the RIF to permit me to suggest an Arabic rubric for its activities and also these articles; I am sure that as the RIF’s EC and GA members, we need to get and we are trying to be engaged in as many avant-garde adjustments as we can. The crucial goal of being in the meeting of the RIF in Beijing is to learn more and speak my mind to the EC and GA colleagues about how to integrate PwDs into the normal workplace and daily life of the society as much as possible. This is a matter of the heart as no government edicts can force the acceptance of PwDs.
Indubitably, we need not to speak about people with noticeable/hidden disabilities rather than to criticise how some of the so called “able-bodied” persons of the field are in a real situation of “i- nability,” when they do not try to think, act and react to support our natural existence within the hybrid aspects of the societies, and hence they choose to pity us rather than to take steps and solve some of our problems that consciously or subconsciously some of them are part of its convolution. Hence, the U.N’s emblem: “No one talks about us without us,” which is to lionize the role of PwD in making their own decisions and strategic plans for their own future without excluding the persons without disabilities who are engaged to start a battle with them to have all their rights. Hereof, some questions come forth: What needs to be changed? The attitudes of people of the community?
I suggest that perhaps the RIF’s use of media who are willing to broadcast as a public service announcement the opportunity to help PwDs is a place to start, it is of a paramount importance today and everyday. And hence, the reason is mentioned earlier in this article about who is to get a new porthole out of that? The objective is to synthesize the PwD with their country fellows in the normal enterprises, foundations, houses, offices...etc. and in the mainstream life of their community up to the hilt. I reiterate that the inclusion, integration and defending the right of having an employment and a decent life for the PwD is the responsibility of the qualified and decisive organizations- as the case in the RIF- to ivence its success to the whole world. The role of the RI in reinforcing the recognition of PwD inside their own communities exceeds that of their authorities.
I recommend the existing organizations of the RIF that are established in nations and who are serving the PwD's need to work together, not to compete for funds. I am sure that the change needed will be more likely to be long- lasting and reach more people if it is a grassroots effort. Meanwhile, I am almost intending to identify together with (some teenagers after the permission of the RIF) people of local communities who are advocates for the PwD and interview them regarding the resources that they know they need to help. As a matter of of fact, I see that resources should be the last thing and not the first consideration. Additionally, education about what technology is and especially how the assistive technology (AT) is available to help is needed, by the same token, we have first to listen to the voice of the PwD to see their perspective about what kind of help they need… And as it is said: “One size does not fit all.”
Besides, thanks to my career and so long experience, perhaps I can humbly be like an ambassador from RI to the different countries you already are known in for working with PwD. This position will permit me to enhance the role of media public service announcements- I mentioned before- for use in the nations I have contact with; it would be wonderful to have testimonies of people who have benefited from the efforts of what Ms. Haidi has done in China. I think all of us were taking pictures with deaf children in the China Disabled People Federation (CDPF). I was glad making a speech in front of the EC and GA members being invited by the Vice Mayor of Qingdao. As for Tsingdao, I have been amazed by the fabulous places that chased my imagination sipping its exceptional natural beauty, that journey made me discover the accessibility that is given to the tourists with different kinds of impairment... I also read that the Edinburgh meeting in 2016, targeted the needs of tourists and accessible places. What people watch on TV or video they think about; what people think about shapes their response to their own society.
From this angle, I might wish to function as an ambassador on behalf of RI Global. By An ambassador, in this context, I mean is to be a spokesperson who talks to people on behalf of another person or an organization or entity, only the ones who have difficulties to connect with the RIF. Hence, I want to initiate the vision of RI to the regions I represent (i.e: Arab Region & North Africa).
Specifically, I want to select a group of volunteers from teens and middle- aged people who have a heart to help PwD. They will need some initial training concerning the disability issues facing the PwD. I want to begin the process and bring in others to provide the follow through necessary to see real change for real people. As an ambassador, I will be ready to interact with individuals, families and organizations both from the public and private sectors who are identified as necessary to move the vision forward.
Finally, under the umbrella of the RIF, I will have more facilities and legitimate position doing some acts, suggesting new plans and yoking up the efforts of the RIF with the ambitions of PwDs along with the motivated parts of their communities.
This kind of motivation was performed concretely through the generous help of dear new RIF’s President, Ms. Haidi Zhang who surprised me at the end of our EC and GA members meetings in Beijing by giving me a new wheelchair and she gave me the opportunity to work with her and share together our thoughts, to foster a new vision about how to renovate the act of getting a new “RIF for All.”
~ Lobna Smida ~