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International Day of Persons with Disabilities-December 3

What is it?

Following the United Nations Decade of Disabled Persons, which ran from 1983-1993, the UN General Assembly proclaimed December 3rd to be the International Day of Persons with Disabilities.    Since 1992 this day of observance has “aimed to promote an understanding of disability issues and mobilize support for the dignity, rights, and well-being of persons with disabilities through national, regional, and global efforts.”

According to the World Health Organization, around 10% of the world’s population, or 650 million people, live with disability, which is defined as any mental, physical, or sensory impairment.  It also aims to increase the awareness of the gains for all people if disabled persons are integrated into all aspects of political, social, economic, and cultural life.

Some Facts:

  • On March 11th, 2010, the eve of the opening of the Paralympic Games in Vancouver,  Canada became the 78th country to ratify the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons With Disabilities. The ratification of the convention has many implications in terms of needing to reform many provincial laws (including making schools inclusive to all students and no longer diverting disabled students to special schools), as well as to the Canadian Immigration Act.  As it stands now, Canada’s Immigration Act allows for excluding disabled persons from immigration on the basis that they “might reasonably be expected to cause excessive demands on health or social services”- despite this being in direct conflict with our own Human Rights Act and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.  By the current standard, people like eminent physicist Stephen Hawking, and Canadians Michael J. Fox and Pierre Elliot Trudeau would be denied immigration into Canada.
  • The Council of Canadians with Disabilities fully endorses the Canadian ratification of the UN Convention stating, “It signals the end of an era where disabled people were seen as objects of charity.  Ratification makes real our goal of recognition as full and equal citizens of Canada.”  Disabled persons now have legal recourse to address accessibility issues, inclusion policies (or lack thereof), lack of employment opportunities, lack of equal pay for equal work, and the myriad of issues disabled persons live with.
  • Disabled women and girls are particularly at risk for being victims of violence, sexual abuse, neglect and exploitation.  The organization, FORWARD- Feminists with Disabilities- is committed to advocating for the needs of disabled women and girls and have numerous resources on their website at http://disabledfeminists.com/.

What can I do?

  • Many Canadian cities celebrate International Day of Persons with Disabilities with a variety of events to promote the artistic, social, athletic and other achievements of disabled persons.  Check your city’s event listing to see what they have planned, and if nothing is planned, contact the public events coordinator and see what they can arrange.
  • Plan your own community’s awards night and showcase that highlights the achievements of disabled people in your own area.  Schedule speeches from disabled persons organizations to educate the public on the issues, daily realities and political actions open to protect the rights of disabled people.
  • Enlisting the support of disabled members of your community to partner up with non-disabled persons and give them an opportunity to live with a disability firsthand.
  • Write your MP to protest the Canadian Immigration Act’s discrimination of persons with disabilities and visit http://www.ccdonline.ca/en/socialpolicy/access-inclusion/Letter-to-Minister-Kenney-26May2010 to sign the petition to the Minister of Immigration.