International Day of Persons with Disabilities (3 December)

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Today, there are more than 7 billion people in the world, and more than 1 billion people, or about 15% of the world’s population, live with a form of disability; 80% live in developing countries.

In contrast to the normal norm of an individual in their society, a disability is a disorder or function judged to be significantly impaired. The word is also used to refer to human functioning, including physical impairment, sensory impairment, cognitive impairment, intellectual impairment, mental illness, and different forms of chronic illness. Some disabled individuals have described this usage being associated with a medical model of disability.

People with disabilities, “the largest minority in the world,” typically have poorer health, reduced educational performance, less economic opportunities and higher poverty rates than people without disabilities. This is mainly attributed to the lack of services (such as information and communications technology (ICT), justice or transportation) available to them and the many challenges they face in their daily lives. Such barriers can take a range of types, including those relating to the physical environment, or those emerging from laws or regulations, or attitudes or discrimination in society.

Evidence and experience show that their entire community benefits when barriers to their inclusion are removed and individuals with disabilities are empowered to participate fully in societal life. Therefore, challenges encountered by people with disabilities are harmful to society as a whole, and accessibility is important to make change and growth achievable for them.

Accessibility and inclusion of people with disabilities are basic rights recognised in the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and are not only goals but also prerequisites for other rights to be enjoyed. The Convention (Article 9, accessibility) aims to make it possible for people with disabilities to live freely and actively engage in all facets of life and development. It calls on States Parties to take effective steps to ensure that people with disabilities have access, on an equal footing with others, to all facets of society, and to recognise and eradicate obstacles and barriers to inclusion.