International Day of People with Disability is an international observance promoted by the United Nations since 1992 and is celebrated on December 3rd each year. It aims to promote an understanding of disability issues and mobilize support for the dignity, rights and well-being of persons with disabilities. It also seeks to increase awareness of gains to be derived from the integration of persons with disabilities in every aspect of political, social, economic and cultural life.
Over one billion people, or approximately 15 per cent of the world’s population, live with some form of disability. Persons with disabilities, “the world’s largest minority”, often face 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 (ICT), 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, health care, transportation, political participation or justice.
Evidence and experience shows that when barriers to their inclusion are removed and persons with disabilities are empowered to participate fully in societal life, their entire community benefits. Barriers faced by persons with disabilities are, therefore, a detriment to society as a whole, and accessibility is necessary to achieve progress and development for all. The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) recognizes that the existence of barriers constitutes a central component of disability. Under the Convention, disability is an evolving concept that “results from the interaction between persons with impairments and attitudinal and environmental barriers that hinder their full and effective participation in society on an equal basis with others.”
Accessibility and inclusion of persons with disabilities are fundamental rights recognized by the CRPD and are not only objectives, but also pre-requisites for the enjoyment of other rights. The CRPD (Article 9, accessibility) seeks to enable persons with disabilities to live independently and participate fully in all aspects of life and development. It calls upon States Parties to take appropriate measures to ensure that persons with disabilities have access to all aspects of society, on an equal basis with others, as well as to identify and eliminate obstacles and barriers to accessibility. In spite of this, in many parts of the world today, lack of awareness and understanding of accessibility as a cross-cutting development issue remains an obstacle to the achievement of progress and development through the Millennium Development Goals, as well as other internationally agreed outcomes for all.The commemoration of International Day of Persons with Disabilities in 2012 provides an opportunity to address this exclusion by focusing on promoting accessibility and removing all types of barriers in society.
Each year the day focuses on a different issue and themes from previous years have included
1998: “Arts, Culture and Independent Living”
1999: “Accessibility for all for the new Millennium”
2000: “Making information technologies work for all”
2001: “Full participation and equality: The call for new approaches to assess progress and evaluate outcome”
2002: “Independent Living and Sustainable Livelihoods”
2003: “A Voice of our Own”
2004: “Nothing about Us, Without Us”
2005: “Rights of Persons with Disabilities: Action in Development”
2007: “Decent Work for Persons with Disabilities”
2008: “Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities: Dignity and justice for all of us”
2009: “Making the MDGs Inclusive: Empowerment of persons with disabilities and their communities around the world”
2010: “Keeping the promise: Mainstreaming disability in the Millennium Development Goals towards 2015 and beyond”
2011: “Together for a better world for all: Including persons with disabilities in development”
2012: “Removing barriers to create an inclusive and accessible society for all.
In 1976, the United Nations General Assembly proclaimed 1981 the International Year of Disabled Persons. It called for a plan of action at the national, regional and international levels, with an emphasis on equalization of opportunities, rehabilitation and prevention of disabilities. The theme of IYDP was “full participation and equality”, defined as the right of persons with disabilities to take part fully in the life and development of their societies, enjoy living conditions equal to those of other citizens, and have an equal share in improved conditions resulting from socio-economic development. To provide a time frame during which Governments and organizations could implement the activities recommended in the World Programme of Action, the General Assembly proclaimed 1983-1992 the United Nations Decade of Disabled Persons.