INTA News

INTA Committee Looks to ‘Walk’ with Global Effort for Inclusive COVID-19 Recovery

Published: April 21, 2021

Embracing innovation is one of the pillars of INTA’s current Strategic Plan. Fostering diversity, equity, and inclusion is a growing interest of the Association. In support of both these objectives, the Brands for a Better Society Committee (BFaBS) is exploring opportunities to collaborate with social entrepreneur Michael Haddad and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in their “Stepping Ahead of COVID-19” (SAC) program, as we all work toward a recovery after COVID-19.

The SAC initiative centers around a series of walks around the world designed to spur the development of assistive technologies that empower people with disabilities, as part of the broader range of contributing factors of an inclusive recovery from COVID-19. INTA will be announcing how members can participate in the walks throughout the coming year.

Mr. Haddad, who was the keynote speaker at INTA’s 2019 Annual Meeting in Boston, Massachusetts, USA, survived an accident at age six that left him paralyzed and with a loss of 75 percent of his mobility. He was told that he would never walk again. Not only did he re-learn to walk, but Mr. Haddad has accomplished several record-breaking athletic feats in his native country of Lebanon.

So far, his challenges have included a 60,000-step “Cedar Walk” in Lebanon which drew awareness to deforestation, as well as the “Egypt Walk for the Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities,” a campaign held at the Pyramids of Giza which raised $4 million for assistive technologies that help people with disabilities lead more independent, meaningful lives.

In recognition of his efforts, in 2019, the UNDP Regional Bureau for Arab States appointed him a UNDP Goodwill Ambassador for climate action.

Mr. Haddad had planned a “Walk to the North Pole” last year to increase awareness of, and commitment to, the fight against climate change. When his plans changed after the pandemic hit, Mr. Haddad and UNDP created the “Steps for Good” challenge, where he takes part in marathons and endurance walks in iconic locations around the world. These walks highlight the need to include people with disabilities, the advancement of innovation such as assistive technologies, and the fight against climate change in global COVID recovery strategies.

Now Mr. Haddad and UNDP have initiated the “Stepping Ahead of COVID-19” program, which aims to support the most vulnerable members of society. Currently, he is planning several walks under this new banner, including in Paris, France; Rabat, Morocco; and New York, New York, USA.

INTA is exploring options for members to engage in this initiative, which offers multifaceted solutions that contribute to a post-pandemic recovery and highlights how INTA members are furthering the development of assistive technologies and innovation.

“As a Committee, we are excited to be exploring ways we can enable all INTA members opportunities to support INTA’s good friend Michael Haddad as he again pushes boundaries and for us to be able, as a member-based organization, to work collectively to have meaningful impact and make a positive difference,” said Jessica Murray (Toms Shoes Inc., USA), chair of the BFaBS Committee.

Kathy Tsai (GoPro, USA), a member of the BFaBS—Partnerships Subcommittee, added: “I am thrilled that the INTA community is being invited to support this worthy cause. I look forward to learning more about how we as brands as well as individuals can take part and better support the members of our community who are most seriously impacted by the pandemic so that we can move forward together.”

In addition to the planned walks, UNDP Egypt will be hosting a series of ​ “Assistive Technologies Hackathons” in 2021 to bring together people with disabilities and technology companies with the aim of unlocking innovations that empower people with disabilities.

Brands can and should be a part of the recovery, and as a leading voice in the intellectual property community, INTA is keen to encourage members to help draw attention to this issue. By leveraging INTA’s reach, the BFaBS hopes to spur innovation and ensure that the recovery benefits all community stakeholders, especially those most vulnerable.

The BFaBS is currently developing the details of INTA’s partnership with Mr. Haddad and the UNDP. Members interested in supporting the initiative are welcome to contact Iris Gunther.

Although every effort has been made to verify the accuracy of this article, readers are urged to check independently on matters of specific concern or interest. 

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