On February 19, 2021, the Disability Hub and the Centre for Lebanese Studies hosted What Would an Inclusive Beirut Look Like? A multi-Disciplinary Approach to Inclusive Design webinar moderated by Professor of Comparative Education at the University of Birmingham Dina Kiwan. Disability Hub Steering Committee members Grace Khawam, Abraham Abdallah, Fadi Al Halabi, and Itab Shuayb presented from their expertise the impact and challenges of a people-centric, participatory recovery, equal access to services and spaces in the city of Beirut. The webinar is based on the Story of Inclusive Design short movie that CLS, with partners at the Disability under Siege Project, released on World Disability Awareness Day on December 4, 2020.
Redefined the word ‘inclusion’ adapted to the reality of the city of Beirut, which takes a larger dimension because of the many groups of people that feel excluded. She talked about the story behind producing the life cycle video and its relation to turning Beirut into an inclusive city, particularly after the Beirut Blast.
Itab Shuayb Ph.D., Architect, and Inclusive Design Specialist
The Life Cycle: the Story of Inclusive Design video, Dr. Shuayb explains, is the latest production in a series of activities starting in 2017 with Shaghle Sahle, which roughly translates to Easy Stuff, the first-ever campaign to introduce the concept of inclusivity in Lebanon. The idea of inclusivity defined by the Disability Hub includes persons with disabilities, persons of different shapes and sizes, children, elderly, vulnerable persons, people with special diets, chronic illnesses, amputees, pregnant women, and any person at various stages of life or needs. The October 17th, 2019 uprise that brought people down to the street demanding equal rights and the Covid -19 pandemic that caused the alienation and neglect of different categories of people only strengthened the idea of inclusivity. Finally, in the wake of the Beirut Port blast emergency, recovery, and reconstruction efforts, the need to make inclusivity central became more vital. These three life-changing events heavily impacted the strategy of the Disability Hub to rebuild our city to be a city for all, not only through the reconstruction and services provided but by changing policies and laws, including the right of citizenship.
There was particular attention to ensure that the making of the video itself follows a participatory approach. Mapping Inclusivity in the Reconstruction of Beirut, including two guidelines for rebuilding inclusive heritage and school buildings, is Dr. Shuayb’s current focus.
Grace Khawam Ph.D. Researcher in disability development and Lecturer in Public Health
Grace started with a snapshot of inclusive education in Lebanon, the challenges and opportunities following a rights-based approach. She presented the situation as an academic, an activist, and the mother of a little girl with an intellectual disability. She infused her reporting with examples stemming from her family’s personal experience navigating through Lebanon’s educational system and efforts to find what is best for their daughter. Grace proposed ten vital strategic approaches to be rolled out immediately to ensure equitable quality education to all.
Abraham Abdallah Disability Rights activist and Lecturer
Ibrahim Abdallah overviewed work opportunities for persons with disabilities in Lebanon. He presented all available laws and legislation to persons with disabilities in employment, accessibility, assistive technology, and transportation. He explained the lack of implementation and administrative instruction to ensure these laws are applied and the Beirut explosion’s impact.
Fadi El Halabi, Psychotherapist, Disability Activist, and Executive Director of EDAN
Fadi El Halabi presented the situation after one year of a global pandemic that came with its own set of challenges and opportunities, particularly from the perspective of the mental health of persons with Disabilities. He proposed a commonality affecting many at varying degrees and listed lessons learned from the new normal. He concluded with the added impact of political and economic crises particular to Lebanon’s people and the traumatic Blast of the Port of Beirut to suggest that there is always growth after a post-traumatic event.
The webinar was conducted English with simultaneous Arabic direct and sign language interpretation.