Commemorating the International Day of Persons with Disabilities

Posted by Stephanie Woodward in Life After Paralysis on December 03, 2020 # Lifestyle

By guest blogger Stephanie Woodward

The International Day of Persons with Disabilities is observed every year on December 3 with the purpose of promoting an understanding of disability issues and mobilizing support for the dignity, rights, and well-being of people with disabilities. This day also seeks to increase awareness of the benefits of the integration of people with disabilities in every aspect of political, social, economic, and cultural life. Observance of the International Day of Persons with Disabilities began in 1992 when the United Nations General Assembly passed resolution 47/3. While it is called the International Day of Persons with Disabilities, over the years, it has come to be celebrated throughout an entire week, and this year, it will be commemorated the week of November 30 – December 4 in conjunction with the 13th session of the Conference of States Parties to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities at the United Nations Headquarters in New York.International Day of People with Disabilities logo

While in the United States, we celebrate the passing of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) in July annually, the International Day of Persons with Disabilities gives us an opportunity to celebrate the rights, achievements, and inclusion of disabled people with the entire world. According to the World Health Organization, approximately 15% of the world’s population are people with disabilities; that’s more than one billion people! What’s more, the World Health Organization has found that across the globe, disabled people commonly have lower education, less economic opportunities, poorer health outcomes, and are more likely to live in poverty. These negative factors are a result of discrimination, lack of services, lack of accessibility, and regular barriers that people with disabilities encounter.

This is why it is so important that we come together, as one world, to celebrate the International Day of Persons with Disabilities. While in the United States, we have made a lot of progress in terms of access, accommodations, and the rights of people with disabilities – we still have so much further to go. However, we can also do a lot to help people with disabilities in other countries who have not come as far as us, and we can learn from people with disabilities in other countries who have achieved even more than we have! For example, in my own travels as an attorney who practices disability rights law, I have found that while other countries certainly lack physically accessible infrastructure, I have also found several countries that far surpass the United States in terms of wheelchair accessible transportation. When it comes to the enforcement of disability rights laws, I have found the other countries have taken a much more proactive approach than the U.S. In the U.S., if a person or entity violates the ADA, the only recourse a disabled person has is to file a lawsuit. However, other countries have established government entities to oversee enforcement of their disability rights laws, such as the Law of the People’s Republic of China on the Protection of Disabled Persons establishes the China Disabled Persons’ Federation, which is responsible for representing and protecting the rights and interests of people with disabilities in China. Uganda does things a bit differently - the Uganda constitution requires the parliament to have a certain number of representatives be people with disabilities to help ensure that the interests of disabled people are always represented! By coming together to see how we do things differently, we can accomplish so much and improve the laws and systems in our own country.

The International Day of Persons with Disabilities is also a critical component of the United Nations’ 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda. The UN 2030 Agenda is focused on eliminating poverty, achieving sustainable development world-wide, and leaving no one behind. Given that the UN and the WHO have already documented the disadvantages that people with disabilities experience worldwide, it is essential for the UN and for each country to address the discrimination and barriers that people with disabilities face to ensure that people with disabilities are not left behind.

Stephanie Woodward is an attorney who is passionate about seeking justice for marginalized communities - and has an arrest record to show for it. As a proud disabled woman and civil rights activist, Stephanie is committed to making the law work for all oppressed people. She is the founder of Disability Details, where she provides resources on Disability Rights, access, and life.

The National Paralysis Resource Center website is supported by the Administration for Community Living (ACL), U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) as part of a financial assistance award totaling $8,700,000 with 100 percent funding by ACL/HHS. The contents are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the official views of, nor an endorsement, by ACL/HHS, or the U.S. Government.