3rd December: Celebration of People with Diverse Abilities
Today marks the worldwide celebration of the International Day of Persons with Disabilities. This day was proclaimed by the UN General Assembly resolution 47/3 in 1992, 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 (1).” Persons with Disabilities’ as defined in the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities’ (CRPD) are “those who have long-term physical, mental, intellectual or sensory impairments that, in interaction with various barriers, may hinder their full and effective participation in society on an equal basis with others (2).” According to the World Health Organization, over one billion people – about 15% of the world’s population – have some form of disability. Their optimal level of functioning and development is dependent on the dynamic interaction between their health conditions and social factors such as attitudes, institutions, and laws (3).
The theme guiding this year’s celebration is “Transformation towards a sustainable and resilient society for all’. The underlying principle of this theme is to ‘leave no one behind’ and empowers people with disabilities to be active contributors to society. This is based on transformative changes enumerated in the 2030 agenda for Sustainable Development Goals. These goals are meant to address all areas of development and equality, and include disability components in several of them –aiming to strengthen the resilience of people with disability by providing full access to justice, health care services, infrastructure, inclusive education, accessible communities and sustainable economic growth through employment (4).
As we reflect on these goals, a question that comes to mind is, what is the contribution of our nation so far in achieving an inclusive and accessible society? As Canada’s first Minister dedicated to Persons with Disabilities, the Honorable Carla Qualtrough commented this year “Our country is a leader on the world stage, with a very robust human rights system. We’ve made great strides in fostering an inclusive society for people with disabilities. But there is still work to be done (5).” Moreover, this year, April 3rd and 4th marked a historical moment for Canadians. For the first time, the UN CRPD committee reviewed Canada’s implementation of the CRPD-an important tool for ensuring that people with disabilities have equal access to economic, cultural and social opportunities. This opportunity allowed Canada to underline the country’s progress, as well as discuss areas for improvement in fostering an inclusive and accessible society.
Now, moving forward, as we think of attaining the highest levels of an inclusive society- one that defends the rights and dignity of all citizens and empowers every person with disabilities to participate fully in all aspects of social, political, economic and cultural life- what can we do as responsible citizens? Well, as mentioned in the CRPD, individual citizens, the government, persons with disabilities and their representative organisations, academic institutions and the private sector need to work together to achieve the sustainable development goals but more importantly, the need of the hour is for all of us and not only the people in the disability community, to view issues through a disability lens, rather than observing specific issues as only issues for the people with disabilities. For example, the way we protect the rights of victims disabled by violence can improve how we take care of all citizens who are vulnerable to violence. Furthermore, improving services to persons with disabilities, can improve institutional capacity for all citizens, both now and into the future. Thus, as responsible citizens, I ask that we all take initiatives- not only today, but a 365 day challenge- to listen to fellow citizens with disabilities, and work with them in advancing solutions towards an inclusive society. Ultimately, diversity is the strength of our nation and by increasing the participation of people with all abilities, we will create a stronger Canada.
- https://www.un.org/development/desa/disabilities/international-day-of-persons-with-disabilities-3-december/idpd2017.html (accessed 11/27/17)
- http://www.un.org/disabilities/documents/convention/convoptprot-e.pdf (accessed 11/27/17)
- https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/icd/icfoverview_finalforwho10sept.pdf (accessed 11/28/17)
- https://www.un.org/development/desa/disabilities/about-us/sustainable-development-goals-sdgs-and-disability.html (accessed 11/28/17)
- http://www.newswire.ca/news-releases/minister-qualtrough-on-canadas-appearance-before-the-un-committee-on-the-rights-of-persons-with-disabilities-617862713.html (accessed 11/29/17)
- image citation: http://www.un.org/en/events/disabilitiesday/(accessed 11/29/17)
Post written by blog writter Michelle Chakraborti
Michelle is a a 4th year PhD Candidate in the Experimental Medicine graduate program at the University of British Columbia. She is passionate about policy issues around child and family health. Michelle’s dissertation is grounded on the World Health Organization’s framework on functioning and disability (ICF-CY) that highlights family as the most salient environmental factor affecting child development. For her dissertation, Michelle evaluate’s BC-based physical activity programs for children with neurodevelopmental disorders as an avenue to support and strengthen families’ health. Michelle is also a volunteer with the Let’s Talk Science program at UBC, a national program geared towards engaging children in science. As a part of the UNA Vancouver content writing team, she writes about issues/policies on health related to the mandate of the World Health Organization. If you could go anywhere in the world right now, where would it be and why? France! I’ve always wanted to visit France ever since I learned the language as a child. I admire the culture, architecture and love the food as well as I would be able to test my language skills!