History of United Nations and Persons with Disabilities – The World Programme of Action Concerning Disabled Persons

The International Year of Disabled Persons, 1981, was celebrated with numerous programmes, research projects, policy innovations and recommendations. Many conferences and symposiums were held during the Year, including the First Founding Congress of Disabled People International, in Singapore from 30 November to 6 December. The Trust Fund for the International Year, established in 1977, collected over $510,000 in contributions from member States.

In 1982, the General Assembly took a major step towards ensuring effective follow-up to the International Year by adopting, on 3 December 1982, the World Programme of Action concerning Disabled Persons. The Programme restructured disability policy into three distinct areas: prevention, rehabilitation and equalization of opportunities.

Implementation of the Programme of Action, using multisectoral and multidisciplinary approaches, was addressed by the General Assembly on 3 December 1982 and 22 November 1983. In a broad sense, implementation would entail long-term strategies integrated into national policies for socio-economic development, preventive activities that would include development and use of technology for the prevention of disabilities, and legislation eliminating discrimination regarding access to facilities, social security, education and employment. At the international level, Governments were requested to cooperate with each other, the United Nations and non-governmental organizations.

Together, the Programme and the International Year had launched a new era–one that would seek to define disability as the relationship between persons with disabilities and their environment. The imperative to remove societal barriers which impede the full participation by persons with disabilities became increasingly recognized.