MESSAGE ON THE INTERNATIONAL DAY OF DISABLED PERSONS
3 December 2003
This year’s International Day of Disabled Persons gives societies everywhere an opportunity to hear disabled people speak in a voice of their own. This is a welcome opportunity – but it is one that we should not confine just to this important day.
After all, the Standard Rules on Equalization of Opportunities for Persons with Disabilities, adopted 10 years ago, call upon Member States to act – at all times, and in diverse ways – to raise awareness in society about persons with disabilities, their rights, their needs, their potential and their contribution. This awareness is vital if we are to achieve the goal established by the World Programme of Action concerning Disabled Persons – namely, the full participation and equality of persons with disabilities in social life and development.
This year, the General Assembly took a welcome step toward this goal by deciding to begin drafting the “Comprehensive and Integral International Convention on Protection and Promotion of the Rights and Dignity of Persons with Disabilities”. The preparation of the Convention will require a consultative process at the national, regional and global levels – a process in which the voices of disabled persons must be heard.
Much needs to be done outside the United Nations, too. The media is a key partner in the process of empowering persons with disabilities, in addressing discrimination, prejudice and ignorance, and in ending stereotypical portrayals of persons with disabilities. Non-governmental organizations also have a vital role to play in building understanding among society as a whole – on issues as diverse as the impact of landmines, the importance of educating disabled children, and the need to utilize information and communications technologies to empower disabled persons.
In these and other efforts, let us listen to disabled persons – not just on this day, but every day.