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For A Night, More Than 125 Landmarks Around The World Were Bathed In Purple

The Elysee Palace in Paris is bathed in purple light on Thursday as part of the WeThe15 campaign. Launched ahead of the Tokyo Paralympic Games, the movement calls for an end to discrimination against people with disabilities.
The Elysee Palace in Paris is bathed in purple light on Thursday as part of the WeThe15 campaign. Launched ahead of the Tokyo Paralympic Games, the movement calls for an end to discrimination against people with disabilities.

Updated August 20, 2021 at 9:50 AM ET

Rome's Colosseum, the London Eye, the Empire State Building and Tokyo's Skytree tower are among more than 125 landmarks around the world that were being bathed in purple light Thursday night, recognizing the world's 1.2 billion people with disabilities.

The event, a call for inclusion and equal treatment, came as the Paralympics are set to begin in Tokyo next week.

The idea to light the Élysée Palace, Niagara Falls and other iconic places in purple stems from the WeThe15 campaign — named for the 15% of the world's population who live with disabilities, according to the International Paralympic Committee, which is leading the effort along with the International Disability Alliance.

"Purple has long been associated with the disability community," the organizers say. At least 30 countries are taking part, according to the campaign's website.

The Supertree Grove at the Gardens by the Bay in Singapore is lit up to celebrate the launch of the International Paralympic Committee's WeThe15 campaign on Thursday.
Suhaimi Abdullah / International Paralympic Committee/Getty Images
The Supertree Grove at the Gardens by the Bay in Singapore is lit up to celebrate the launch of the International Paralympic Committee's WeThe15 campaign on Thursday.

In the U.S., more than 20 U.S. landmarks, stadiums and bridges were scheduled to go purple, a Team USA representative told NPR. The list includes Centennial Olympic Park in Atlanta, Gillette Stadium near Boston and the Staples Center in Los Angeles.

"WeThe15 aspires to be the biggest ever human rights movement for persons with disabilities," said IPC President Andrew Parsons, adding that the movement's goal is "to put disability right at the heart of the inclusion agenda, alongside ethnicity, gender and sexual orientation."

New York City's Empire State Building was among the U.S. landmarks to participate in the WeThe15 event on Thursday.
Noam Galai / International Paralympic Committee/Getty Images
New York City's Empire State Building was among the U.S. landmarks to participate in the WeThe15 event on Thursday.

Sports and the upcoming Tokyo Paralympics offer a powerful chance to improve the lives of people with disabilities, Parsons said, calling them "the planet's largest marginalized group."

The organizers also created a short video that chronicles the regular lives of people with disabilities, from the daily need to do chores to their dreams of excelling — in life and in sports.

"People call us special," the video states, "but there's nothing special about us."

The campaign brings a number of large organizations together, from the Paralympics to the Special Olympics and several United Nations agencies.

"More than one billion people live with a disability today, and yet the world is still far from truly recognizing and honoring this 15 percent of society," said UNESCO Director-General Audrey Azoulay. "It is time to change our perception of people with disabilities, and make their voices heard everywhere."

The Tokyo Paralympics will hold its opening ceremony on Aug. 24, with the first competitions starting one day later.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

The Piccadilly Lights in London temporarily show graphics to celebrate the launch of WeThe15 campaign on Thursday.
Stuart C. Wilson / International Paralympic Committee/Getty Images
The Piccadilly Lights in London temporarily show graphics to celebrate the launch of WeThe15 campaign on Thursday.