Celebrated since 1992, December 3rd is the United Nation’s annual observance of a day aimed at promoting greater understanding of disability issues and to mobilize support for the dignity, rights, and well-being of persons with disabilities throughout the world. Known as the International Day of Persons with Disabilities (IDPD), it focuses on bringing awareness to barriers and obstacles faced by people with disabilities every day.
Approximately one billion people (or 15% of the world’s population) live with disabilities. According to the UN, they are “the world’s largest minority.” Most people are unaware of the great number of persons living with disabilities and the challenges they face. These individuals struggle with barriers to participation in all aspects of society. Barriers can take a variety of forms, including those relating to the physical environment or to information and communications technology, or those resulting from legislation or policy, or from societal attitudes or discrimination. The result is that persons with disabilities do not have equal access to society or services, including education, employment, healthcare, transportation, political participation, or justice.
Often, the societal image of individuals with disabilities is impacted by attitudes based on stigma and discrimination, as well as archaic ideas about disability and persons with disabilities that are often the greatest barrier to their full and equal participation in society and development on an equal basis with others. It is important to note that disability is part of the human condition and that all of us either are or will become disabled to one degree or another during the course of our lives.
IDPD also seeks to increase awareness of gains to be derived from the inclusion of persons with disabilities in every aspect of life. It is important to focus on the ability and not on the disability of an individual.
Every year the UN chooses a theme for IDPD, which is celebrated through various events and speakers at UN Headquarters in New York City. 2015’s theme is: “Inclusion matters: access and empowerment of people of all abilities.”
This year, the UN also has sub-themes for the day:
- Making cities inclusive and accessible for all.
- Improving disability data and statistics.
- Including persons with invisible disabilities in society and development.
Since 2009, the UN’s Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA) has organized a film festival as a part of the events at UN Headquarters to commemorate IDPD. The UN’s Enable Film Festival includes short disability-related films selected on the basis of their content and message that can help raise awareness of disability issues and further promote the full and effective participation of persons with disabilities in society. View films from various years at: http://www.un.org/disabilities/default.asp?id=1562.
2015 is the first year that the DESA is including a photography competition as part of the celebration of IDPD. Of over 150 submissions, ten have won special recognition and are featured at UN Headquarters. DESA’s hope is that these photographs will work to help change misperceptions to counter stigma and stereotyping about persons with disabilities. It will also promote a better understanding about disability issues and present persons with disabilities as individuals that are a part of our human diversity. Enjoy viewing the winning photographs at: http://www.un.org/disabilities/default.asp?id=1639.
A major focus of IDPD is a call to take practical action to realize positive objectives for persons with disabilities and their communities. Do your part and TAKE ACTION by highlighting best practices and make recommendations to your local political leaders, businesses, academic institutions, cultural centers, business leaders, and others. Work to ensure that your activity leaves a legacy and brings about lasting change.
For more information, consult the UN’s Enable website at: http://www.un.org/disabilities/default.asp?id=1637.