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International Day of Persons with Disabilities is December 3

This year's theme is "Building back better: towards an inclusive, accessible and sustainable post COVID-19 world by, for and with persons with disabilities".

Every year on December 3, people around the world come together to celebrate the International Day of Persons with Disabilities — a day to raise awareness and promote the rights of people with disabilities.

 

Of course, this is something disability service agencies already do all year long! However, it’s worth spending a little extra time on December 3rd to commemorate this important event in our  community.

History of the International Day of Persons with Disabilities

The first International Day of Persons with Disabilities (IDPwD) was observed nearly 30 years ago, in 1992. 

 

It was established by the United Nations (UN) General Assembly through Resolution 47/3 “to promote an understanding of disability issues and mobilize support for the dignity, rights and well-being of persons with disabilities”.

 

However, the UN’s efforts to change attitudes toward individuals with disabilities started long before that. Other significant UN proclamations and programs leading up to the establishment of the International Day of Persons with Disabilities include: 

 

  • 1948: Universal Declaration of Human Rights 
  • 1971: Declaration on the Rights of Mentally Retarded Persons
  • 1975: Declaration on the Rights of Disabled Persons
  • 1982: World Programme of Action Concerning Disabled Persons 
  • 1991: Principles for the Protection of Persons with Mental Illness and the Improvement of Mental Health Care
  • 1992: International Day of Persons with Disabilities

 

Since then, the International Day of Persons with Disabilities has been celebrated every year on December 3. Celebrations at the UN headquarters in New York include panel discussions and cultural events. Member countries as well as schools, community groups, and businesses also host their own celebrations. 

IDPwD 2021

This year’s event is even more significant in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. The disability community has been hit disproportionately hard by COVID-19, with this vulnerable population experiencing higher rates of infection, hospitalization, and death than the general public. Not only that, but people with disabilities have endured isolation, unemployment, and reduced access to vital services — as service providers well know. 

 

With that in mind, this year’s theme for the International Day of Persons with Disabilities is “Building back better: towards an inclusive, accessible and sustainable post COVID-19 world by, for and with persons with disabilities”.

Ideas to celebrate the International Day of Persons with Disabilities

So, how can your disability service agency celebrate the International Day of Persons with Disabilities and help “build back better”? We’ve put together a list of events — most of which can be adapted to virtual formats:

1. Spread the word on social media

One of the easiest ways to raise awareness about the International Day of Persons with Disabilities is to share on your social media channels. Post a photo, tell a story, or Tweet a fact about disabilities — the possibilities are endless. Whatever you choose to do, remember to use the hashtag #IDPwD on your social media posts. This will help improve worldwide recognition for disability rights issues.

2. Teach a class

For example, you could teach a free sign language class for people in the community. It’s a fun way to meet new people and learn a new skill that can be used later on. Plus, it’s the perfect opportunity to start the conversation about disability inclusion. The best part is, you can easily adapt this to a virtual event if you’re not ready to gather in person.

3. Host a virtual watch party

Whether you choose an inspiring documentary or a laugh-out-loud comedy, a good movie can entertain, educate, and give viewers a new perspective. Looking for a place to start? “Peanut Butter Falcon”, a heartwarming comedy-drama about a young man with Down Syndrome who dreams of becoming a professional wrestler, is sure to be loved by audiences of all ages.

4. Start a book club

The hardest part is choosing which book to read! There are fiction books featuring characters with disabilities, like the best-selling mystery novel The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon. There are also biographies written by people with disabilities, like The Night the Lights Went Out by Drew Magary, The Reason I Jump by Naoki Higashida, or The Impossible Mile by Johnny Agar.

5. Host an art exhibition

An art exhibition is a great way to showcase the creative talents of people with disabilities in your community. Artists can enter their work in the exhibition and have it displayed in a professional gallery format. Some exhibitions even present an opportunity for artists to sell their work, with proceeds going back to the artists. 

EPIC, a disability employment services provider, hosts an annual art exhibition in celebration of the International Day of Persons with Disabilities. (Source: EPIC)

6. Hold an inclusive sporting event

Everyone loves a little friendly competition. So why not host an inclusive sports activity where people with and without disabilities compete together on the same teams? If you need some ideas, we recommend sitting volleyball. All you need is a ball, some tape to mark the court, and a low net or rope strung between two chairs.

The U.S. Women’s sitting volleyball team won the gold medal at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games. (Source: TeamUSA)

7. Advocate for disability rights

This might mean calling or writing a letter to your local representative. It could also mean sending an opinion piece to your local newspaper, or inviting policymakers to visit your program to learn about important issues.

Your turn

Celebrating the International Day of Persons with Disabilities on December 3 is just one way service providers can raise awareness and promote the rights of people with disabilities. For more ideas and events, be sure to subscribe to the SETWorks blog.

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