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.
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.”
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?