December 3rd: International Day of Persons with Disabilities

By Barbara Gruszka

Since 1992, the United Nations has dedicated December 3rd as the International Day of Persons with Disabilities. Each year, the UN establishes a theme for the day, which centers conversations on a specific problem or initiative involving the disabled. This year, the theme is “Achieving 17 Goals for the Future We Want,” an initiative to make the world a more accessible and inclusive place for people who are mentally or physically disadvantaged.

Disability is defined as a physical or mental impairment that limits an individual from major life activities. Some examples of physical and mental impairments include visual, speech, and hearing impairments; addictions; learning disabilities; and orthopedic issues or trouble performing manual tasks.

In general, disabilities can stem from two categories: cognitive disabilities or physical/medical impairment. While there are accommodations for many of these disabilities in the United States, numerous areas remain unreachable for the disabled. With this in mind, the UN seeks to identify the areas where people with disabilities have the greatest inconvenience. An attempt to solve the problem will be made by promoting equality and recommending specific adjustments to create better living conditions and overall environments for the disabled.

To bring into perspective how the world has already accommodated for individuals with disabilities, one may consider public spaces. Bathrooms typically have handicap stalls with bigger doors and more space. Office rooms, elevators, and classrooms are labelled with Braille signs in addition to visual displays for individuals with visual impairments. Most buildings and shopping centers have handicap parking for those who may have trouble walking long distances. These adjustments demonstrate valuable progress; however, they are not always enough.

For example, many buildings today still lack ramps for wheelchairs or motorized scooters. While this may seem trivial to someone who is fully able, it poses a momentous challenge for someone with a physical disability. The American Disability Association created the advertisement displayed to the left to help non-disabled people recognize what it feels like to conquer inaccessible spaces.

The International Day of Persons with Disabilities is intended to raise awareness and make the world accessible to all. The fight for accessibility in public spaces marks progress towards such equality. The events that take place during this international day include “promoting artwork by people with disabilities” and “protests to highlight the difficulties disabled people have in playing a full role in society.” Let us be more conscious of the things we take for granted and of those who are disabled — and the strength they possess.

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