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International Day of Persons with Disabilities

International Day of Persons with Disabilities, created with United Nations General Assembly resolution 47/3, "aims to promote an understanding of disability issues and mobilize support for the dignity, rights and well-being of persons with disabilities. It also seeks to increase awareness of gains to be derived from the integration of persons with disabilities in every aspect of political, social, economic and cultural life." Each year, the day's main event is held at the UN Headquarters in New York City. In past years, the event has included an opening, panel discussions, and cultural events. There is a different theme for the day each year. From 1992 through 2006 the day was known as International Day of Disabled Persons, but since then it has been called the International Day of Persons with Disabilities.

The United Nations has been involved in the rights and well-being of persons with disabilities since before the creation of this holiday. In 1976, they proclaimed 1981 to be the International Year of Disabled Persons. In 1982, the World Programme of Action concerning Disabled Persons was adopted, and to assist governments and organizations in its implementation, the General Assembly proclaimed 1983–1992 as the United Nations Decade of Disabled Persons.

About 15 percent of the world's population has a disability, with about 80 percent of these persons living in developing countries. The UN defines a disability as "a condition or function judged to be significantly impaired relative to the usual standard of an individual of their group." Some examples include "physical impairment, sensory impairment, cognitive impairment, intellectual impairment, mental illness, and various types of chronic disease."

Persons with disabilities are the world's largest minority. In general, they have poorer health, higher rates of poverty, lower education achievements, less economic opportunities, and are at a greater risk of violence than persons without disabilities. Some of the biggest reasons for this are lack of services, as well as everyday obstacles related to legislation, discrimination and negative attitudes in society, and their physical environment. With their inclusion and participation in society, the whole community benefits.

How to Observe International Day of Persons with Disabilities

A few ideas for how the day can be observed include:

  • Follow what takes place for the event at the UN Headquarters.
  • Explore themes from previous years.
  • If you are a member state, civil society organization, or part of the private sector, you can organize events to raise awareness and promote the rights and perspectives of persons with disabilities.
  • Explore resources related to the day and persons with disabilities.
  • If appropriate, reach out to persons with disabilities you know.
  • Watch a film or read a book that focuses on persons with disabilities.

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