Recognizing the Life We Want on the International Day of Persons with Disabilities

An image showing the Echidna logo in a colour-blindness test format.

Tomorrow's arrival of the International Day of Persons with Disabilities marks an ideal time for all of us to focus on celebrating our diversity inclusive of those with disabilities -- and to work towards presenting more positivity in our depiction of those with disabilities.

On Saturday, Dec. 3rd, we celebrate the 24th annual IDPwD. This is a United Nations-recognized day that highlights a different inclusive theme each year in order to promote full participation in society of persons with disabilities.

This year’s event has the theme of "Achieving 17 Goals for a Life We Want," which is a reference to the recently-adopted Sustainable Development Goals. These goals are meant to address all areas of development and equality. There are significant disability components in several of them – from access to education and employment to accessible design of urban centers and other 'human settlements.'

This year is particularly significant as it marks the 10th anniversary of the adoption of the Convention for the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), one of the most quickly ratified international human rights treaties in UN history. This charter emphasizes the dignity and equality of all persons, irrespective of disability, and more than 163 States and one regional organization (the European Union) have ratified or acceded to the Convention.

The International Day for Persons with disabilities is celebrated globally. It coincides with a disability-focused film festival at the UN, as well as discussions on increased accessibility. Several Canadian organizations, primarily focused on employment, are hosting discussion groups around the country to improve access to employees and patrons with disabilities.

Naturally this is a great day, but I feel it warrants more celebration. For one thing, it competes with the May event of global Accessibility Awareness Day and having two similar events perhaps is confusing. But I would suggest they shouldn’t really be a competition. Let’s celebrate accessibility twice. Winter and spring present very different accessibility needs so why not fully embrace both? Maybe AODA implementation would be more complete if accessibility as a human interest story was more present.

I also think there needs to be a wider variety of events, with more emphasis on hearing from people with disabilities. There are many discussion groups focused on employment, an area I feel strongly about, but where are the art shows, the disability-positive comedy, the open mics? Where are the 'how to raise a kid with a disability' workshops, or the disabled youth groups? Where are the events for seniors, the largest group with a disability?

If we are to be giving dignity to those with disabilities, instilling pride and practicality in the everyday aspects of life extends beyond finding work. Anyone with a disability actively seeking employment has gained a lot of skills already and probably has a positive self-image. It’s the parents unsure of what they’re child is capable of and the seniors struggling to adjust to a new reality who are most in need. If more positive images are projected of people with disabilities at all stages of life, the prospect of equal employment and participation will be much easier for everyone to get behind.

That being said, I hope you acknowledge the International Day of Persons with Disabilities in your own way. Any discussion of disability is better than none at all and the more discussions keep happening the better off we all will be.



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