Reducing Barriers to Access

WLP Brazil Creates Inclusive Digital Spaces in the Covid-19 Pandemic

In the “new normal” since COVID-19, feminist and human rights organizations are innovating to be inclusive in online spaces. WLP Brazil (CEPIA) found a way to bring young leaders with auditory and visual disabilities to the (virtual) table.

This summer, CEPIA set out to host an inclusive youth festival that would build a democratic coalition of activists across Latin America and Lusophone Africa. In the context of the Covid-19 pandemic, accessibility is a crucial consideration for virtual events.  According to the UN, people with disabilities are disproportionately impacted by Covid-19 and are least likely to be able to access distance-learning and online solutions. When planning the festival, the entire team at CEPIA worked tirelessly to break down the barriers to access and ensure people with disabilities could fully participate. In their first-ever virtual festival for youth and democracy, CEPIA utilized technology to provide simultaneous sign-language translation and audio description for participants with auditory and visual disabilities.

CEPIA’s Festival for Critical Thinking and Action (FIPA) — which brought together young leaders aged 15 to 24 from Brazil, Colombia, Peru, Chile, Argentina, Ecuador, Cape Verde, and Mozambique — covered topics such as  democratic activism, digital security, and advocacy tools. Hands-on workshops on podcasts, graphic design, and video editing gave participants the opportunity to create multi-media campaigns addressing human rights issues in their communities. 


“Inclusion is an extremely important issue for those working in the defense of human rights,” stated Andrea Romani, Program Officer at CEPIA and Regional Director of WLP. “Although we have laws that aim to guarantee access to rights by people with disabilities, public policies are still insufficient and there is still a lot of resistance and misinformation, including the debate on digital accessibility,” Romani added.

FIPA: bringing accessibility to the forefront of planning and execution

When planning FIPA, the team at CEPIA dedicated themselves to learning new skills to reach their goal of digital accessibility. CEPIA staff worked with Brazilian Sign Language (LIBRAS) interpreters to ensure youth with hearing disabilities could participate. Furthermore, the team learned how to produce visual materials with audio descriptions to enhance access for people with visual impairments. During the recruitment process for the conference, CEPIA worked to ensure that information about the festival reached young leaders with disabilities. This learning process bolstered CEPIA’s organizational capacity, which will allow them to make virtual events accessible in the future.

CEPIA’s team effort led to powerful results. As Emcee Lucas Masaio welcomed participants to FIPA, a LIBRAS interpreter followed along in the bottom-right corner of the livestream. A simultaneous audio description narrated what was happening, including the physical setting, facial expressions, and appearance of the speakers.

For many, the accessible nature of the festival was what made it such a success. “FIPA was wonderful, I found the methodology used very inclusive and the idea of having several languages, including sign language, very important to assure accessibility,” one participant noted. “I liked it!” exclaimed another, when asked about the use of LIBRAS and audio description. “Democracy is all about participation and leadership.”

FIPA was wonderful, I found the methodology used very inclusive and the idea of having several languages, including sign language, very important to assure accessibility.
FIPA Participant


In response to the positive feedback, CEPIA plans to keep a line item in their budgets for sign language and audio description whenever possible. Instituting accessible technologies is a learning curve, however, and CEPIA is continually seeking to grow and improve. In planning and preparation, they are always asking the question: who is excluded from the conversation and what else can we do to bring them to the (virtual) table?

CEPIA founder Jacqueline Pitanguy speaks to young leaders about the power of activism and the importance of standing up for their rights. An interpreter follows along in LIBRAS - Brazilian Sign Language - in the bottom right corner

The WLP partnership model spreads knowledge to CSOs around the world

The pandemic continues to impact our partners’ communities and online events are becoming ubiquitous around the world. FIPA is a successful model of the ways in which technology can be leveraged to create more inclusive communities online. According to Romani, “FIPA and its inclusive character can constitute a positive example of inclusion that motivates other organizations, especially those that have human rights as the central theme of their actions and that seek to promote equality and human dignity.”


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