Although most awareness months and days are on a national scale, this December will feature a global undertaking to raise awareness and promote advocacy. December 3 is the United Nations International Day of Persons with Disabilities. This is an effort to “promote action and raise awareness about disability issues and draw attention to the benefits of an inclusive and accessible society for all.” Observed since 1992, this day focuses on a different theme around the world each year. For 2016, the theme is “Achieving 17 Goals for the Future We Want.”
The objective of the International Day of Persons with Disabilities is to raise awareness of all types of disabilities and dispel archaic ideas and stereotypes and stigma, as these are often “the greatest barrier to their full and equal participation in society and development on an equal basis with others.” Moreover, over the course of our lives, most of us will become disabled to some degree.
Nearly 1 in 7 people worldwide live with a disability. Of great concern are the barriers they face, which prevent them from being fully included in important parts of daily life, in such areas as transportation, employment, and education. In addition, many people with disabilities are not fully able to participate politically, a key to maintaining active citizenship in a democracy and being self-advocates for needed changes.
The International Day of Persons with Disabilities recognizes not only physical disabilities, but also mental, cognitive, and emotional disabilities. Already a vulnerable group, these people, often face discrimination in employment and other areas of daily living or, at the very least, confront considerable hurdles to accomplishing these tasks effectively.
Last year, the theme was “Inclusion Matters: Access and Empowerment for People of All Disabilities.” As a result, the UN earlier this year adopted 17 Sustainable Development Goals to provide a greater degree of inclusion for all people with disabilities. The UN efforts address the current status of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, an international treaty comprising eight principles:
- Respect for inherent dignity, individual autonomy including the freedom to make one’s own choices, and independence of persons
- Full and effective participation and inclusion in society
- Respect for difference and acceptance of persons with disabilities as part of human diversity and humanity
- Equality of opportunity
- Equality between men and women;
- Respect for the evolving capacities of children with disabilities and respect for the right of children with disabilities to preserve their identities.
And, did you know:
- Of the 7.3 billion people worldwide in 2015, some 1 billion live with a disability. In the US, about one in five, some 57 million, have a physical or mental disability.
- One in four people worldwide will experience depression or another mental disability sometime during his or her lifetime, according to the World Health Organization, a UN agency.
- I n US and other Western nations, where life expectancy is 70 years or more, a person will spend on average about 8 years, or 11.5 percent of his or her life span, living with a disability.