- December 3 -
International Day of Disabled Persons, proclaimed by the a collaborative
effort United Nations, is to celebrate and acknowledge
the experience and capabilities of people with disabilities. The Day
was initially proclaimed in 1992 to commemorate the anniversary of the
World Programme of Action concerning Disabled Persons, adopted by the
General Assembly to promote understanding about disability issues and
to increase awareness of gains to be derived from integrating disabled
persons into all aspects of political, social economic and cultural
life. Accessibility for all for the Millennium is the theme
More than half a billion persons are disabled as a result of mental,
physical or sensory impairment and no matter which part of the world
they are in, their lives are often limited by physical or social barriers.
During the past two decades, much has been accomplished in recognition
of disabled persons. One of the turning points was the International Year of Disabled
Persons proclaimed by the General Assembly in 1981. Following the
year, the International Decade of Disabled
Persons was designated (1983-1992) to promote "equality"
and "full participation" of disabled persons in social life
The World Programme of Action concerning
Disabled Persons, adopted by the General Assembly in 1982, provides
an international framework to incorporate disability issues into national
planning. To complement the World Programme, Standard Rules on Equalization
of Opportunities for Persons with Disabilities were crafted in 1993.
Although the Rules are not compulsory for Governments, they imply a
strong moral and political commitment of States to equalize the opportunities
of persons with disabilities. To this end, the Rules outline specific
principles for responsibility, action and cooperation.
Increasingly, the work of the United Nations is focused on equalization
of opportunities for persons with disabilities. One of the most important
concerns is accessibility to new technologies, in particular information
and communications technologies, as well as to the physical environment.
The notion of "mainstreaming" is also given prominence, that
is, including a disability dimension in policy recommendations covering
a wide spectrum of social and economic concerns.
Connections: Canada and Disability Issues
Since the United Nations International Year of Disabled Persons
(1981), Canada has made considerable progress in all areas of disability.
Widespread initiatives in research, prevention, rehabilitation, and
community action have brought new meaning to the concepts of integration
and life with dignity for people with disabilities.
Canadas record of achievement in the disability field is plentiful:
- Canadians have been dedicated
and creative in their efforts to translate equality into every aspect
of community life, each success enthusing others to take up the challenge.
- In 1981, an all-party Parliamentary Committee
issued an insightful report, Obstacles: Report of the Special Committee
on the Disabled and the Handicapped, with contributions from citizens
with disabilities across Canada.
- A National Strategy for
Integration of Persons with Disabilities was launched by the Canadian
government following the World Programme of Action concerning Disabled
- Early in the UN decade, the Parliament of Canada
passed an Omnibus Bill designed to ensure the full participation of
citizens with disabilities, through access to the electoral system
and access in alternate format to government records and information.
- The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms is
one of the first such documents to guarantee the rights of people
- In 1983, the Secretary of State was designated
Minister Reponsible for the Status of Disabled Persons and a special
Office on Disability was established by the Canadian Government, now
for Disability Issues.
- Canada has hosted:
- Independence 92, an International Congress
- Third World Congress of Disabled Peoples International;
- International Conference of Ministers Responsible
for the Status of Persons with Disabilities.
- Canada has pioneered new initiatives to support
complete integration and full participation of persons with disabilities:
the Commonwealth Games held in Victoria, British Columbia in 1994
were fully accessible, and set a new games standards for integration
- Canada played a pivotal role in leading
the global ban on antipersonnel mines, one of the leading causes of
disability around the world.
- Over 2000 organizations are actively involved
in the disability field in Canada.
- Today, many Canadians with disabilities are acclaimed
for exceptional leadership in addressing issues, not always in the
disability field, at the community, national and international level.
Source: REACH Equality and Justice for People with Disabilities
Activities for International Day of Disabled Persons
Many activities can be planned on disability issues. The following
are only examples of the kinds of activities which can be organized
to mark International Day of Disabled Persons:
- Organize forums on disability issues to initiate
discussions on the needs, interests, and aspirations of disabled persons.
This could be a conference or seminar with expert speakers.
- Take stock of the progress made throughout the
year as well as obstacles encountered during the implementation of
disability policies and programmes. Schools, universities, community
groups, and public offices should all have policies and plans regarding
- Organize and participate in local, national and
international activities to advance the status of disabled persons
globally. Raise awareness of disability issues by putting up a display
at your local shopping centre, library, council chamber or school.
Public events are important vehicles to draw attention to disability
- Write a letter to the editor of a newspaper or
magazine regarding access, transport or services (or lack of). Encourage
media persons to cover stories and events on disability issues.
- Organize a writing/poetry competition at a local
high school to discuss human rights issues, in particular focusing
on the lives of people with a disability.
- Do some research to find out more about the lives
of people with disabilities and how you can help make a difference.
Your local library or council may have suitable information.
- In this International
Year of Older Persons (1999), consider how disability issues affect
- Plan a lesson or activity in the classroom about
disability issues, such as having students cope with a disability
for a day. Teaching students about how disabilities impact individuals
and how to cope with a disability is important in developing open
minds and an understanding of disability.
For more information there are several sources of additional information.
- For more information about the United Nations
Association in Canada, and its programmes to inform Canadians about
the work of the UN, visit our website:http://www.unac.org/ or contact us at:
900-130 Slater, Ottawa, ON K1P 6E2 (tel): (613) 232-5751 ext. 224
or (email) [email protected]
- The Economic and Social Council of the United
Nations hosts a website that contains useful information relevant
to the day as well as the cause at: http://www.un.org/esa/socdev/disabled.htm
- The Office for Disability Issues is the Canadian
government agency responsible for disability issues. More information
on Canadian initiatives on disability can be found at their website:http://www.hrdc-drhc.gc.ca/hrib/sdd-dds/sdd/odi/content/goc.shtml
- Disabled Peoples' International (DPI) is an international
organization working to promote the human rights of people with disabilities
through full participation, equalization of opportunity and development.
DPI can be found at website: http://www.dpi.org/
- Council of Canadians with Disabilities (CCD) is
a national organization advocating for disability issues. CCD can
be found at website: http://www.pcs.mb.ca/~ccd/index.html