International Day of Disabled Persons 2007

Observance of the  2007 International Day of Disabled Persons


Monday, 3 December 2007


  • Press briefing, 11:15 am to 12:00pm, Room S-226
    • Theme: “Dispelling the myth that persons with disabilities are unable to work” – Speakers will discuss how persons with disabilities not only make good employees, but that companies benefit from employing them.  They will illustrate their organizations’ diversity policies related to persons with disabilities.
    • Speakers:
      • Chris Sullivan, Vice President, Merrill Lynch
      • Judy Young, Vice President, National Business and Disability Council
  • Panel discussion, 1:30 to 2:30 pm, Conference Room 4
    • Theme: Panelists will explore the same theme as that of the Press Briefing. Q&A will follow.
    • Panelists: 
      • Chris Sullivan, Vice President, Merrill Lynch
      • Judy Young, Vice President, National Business and Disability Council
      • Lenny Goldstein, Vice-President for Career and Youth Services, Lighthouse International.
      • Jeff Walker, Project Manager, Shafallah Center for Children with Special Needs(Qatar)
  • Piano Concert “Different Notes”, 6:30 to 8:00 pm, Dag Hammarskjöld Auditorium
    Renowned artists from around the world will perform at the UN Headquarters.  This piano concert is sponsored by the Permanent Mission of Japan and the United Nations Division for Social Policy and Development. Another performance will take place on 5 December at Carnegie Hall’s Weill Recital Hall, New York.





3 December 2007

This year’s International Day of Disabled Persons focuses on the goal of decent work for persons with disabilities, and reminds us that every person deserves opportunities for productive employment in conditions of freedom, equity, security and human dignity.

Persons with disabilities are deprived of adequate employment opportunities in nearly every society. Estimates show that at least half of all disabled people in developed nations, and the vast majority of those with disabilities in developing countries, are unemployed. Most others are under-employed, or will never have full access to the labour market. This situation is deplorable.

Persons with disabilities have the ability to make valuable contributions in the workforce as employees, entrepreneurs and employers.  But they face numerous barriers that prevent them from fulfilling their potential. Early in life, they encounter difficulties gaining access to an education or acquisition of employable skills. Later on, fears and prejudices about their abilities deny them the work opportunities available to others.  Inaccessible workplaces, explicit and implicit discriminatory legislation and practices, and unfavourable work conditions pose additional hurdles. 

Yet, whenever the opportunity arises, persons with disabilities prove their worth as productive members of the workforce.  That is why more and more employers are slowly coming to the realization that employing persons with disabilities makes good sense. Changing workplace environments and advances in information and communications technologies are also giving persons with disabilities new avenues for seeking decent work.

Most States do not have legislation protecting persons with disabilities in the workplace.   The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which is expected to enter into force early next year, recognizes the rights of persons with disabilities to work and employment on an equal basis with others.  It stresses their right to earn a living from freely chosen work, and to work in an environment that is both accessible and accepting.

On this International Day, let us reaffirm our commitment to seeking equal rights for all, and let us pledge to ensure the full participation of persons with disabilities in the lives of their communities.



Message from the UN Special Rapporteur on Disability
to the Commission for Social Development

on the International Day of Disabled Persons

Ladies and Gentlemen
Peace be upon you,

I am pleased to be able to at least contribute a few words to the celebration of International Disability Day—if only from afar. On this day I will be engaged in a number of events and media interviews which I hope will serve to further raise awareness of the rights of Persons with Disabilities.

On this occasion I would like to extend my congratulating, first and foremost, to persons with disabilities themselves, their representative organizations, and the leaders of the international disability movement and disability rights activists everywhere.

I would also like to acknowledge those pioneering countries who stepped up to sign the International Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities on March 30, 2006, sending a message to the rest of the world, that they are ready to adopt the set of principles and values aimed at promoting, preserving and protecting the rights and dignity of persons with disabilities.

On this historic occasion—International Disability Day one year after the adoption of the Convention—I stand in awe and salute all those who made the Convention possible. Those who spent decades struggling to persuade the international community of the necessity for such a document; those who spent five years in negotiating its content, drafting its articles, ensuring it contained all the issues that would guarantee to persons with disabilities the full realization, enjoyment and exercise of their rights.

The Convention is the embodiment of the highest universal values which all of us who believe in rights and equality aspire to see implemented everywhere. It epitomizes the principles of indivisibility and inalienability of human rights; and exemplifies the true meaning of human security and social harmony.

The theme of International Disability Day this year is “The Right to Decent Work for Persons with Disabilities”—a right to which we all aspire. A right which many people take for granted.

After all, we have all been in this a position:

An interview for a job that we are eager to land; doing our best to impress a prospective employer with our skills, our experience, our ability to contribute to the company or organization, persuading them that we can be asset. It is a difficult position to be in under the best of conditions.

But for persons with disabilities—who carry the added burden of having to prove that are as qualified as non-disabled candidates—landing any job presents additional challenges.

Regardless of where they live, persons with disabilities applying to the labour market are faced with even more insurmountable obstacles than an inaccessible physical environment, or the absence of assistive devices—which can be dealt with through laws and legislations drafted in accordance with the Convention.

The obstacles that persons with disabilities encounter—are negative attitudes and discrimination based on nothing more than pre-conceived notions about their capabilities, their potentials, their abilities to contribute.

One cannot legislate negative attitudes away, cannot draft laws to eliminate stereotypes, cannot remove from the hearts and minds of people the tendency to discriminate.

But we can, through occasions of this kind, around the world, involving the media in all its forms, in which both disabled and non-disabled persons speak out—we can begin to eliminate negative perceptions and prejudices.

A few words about Article 27, which deals with Work and Employment, and clearly states the right to gainful employment freely chosen by the persons themselves and which prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability.

Along with this comes the right to skills upgrading, vocational and professional training, continuing education and rehabilitation in order to ensure a person with a disability is able to perform at his or her peak equally with others.

Work, whether in the open labour market or in self-employment, is the true realization of the right of persons with disabilities to participate fully and contribute to the development of their societies and communities.

To enable persons with disabilities to fully exercise the right to work and employment, we need to restructure our own societies in all their aspects to integrate persons with disabilities. We need to change our own mind sets to make use of the potentials and contributions of persons with disabilities that are much needed in all societies.

We have a great deal of work to do at the national and international level to understand that persons with disabilities are ready and able—and that it is the non-disabled population which needs to work on its ability to accept and absorb and integrate them.

I wish you a successful celebration and hope that by this time next year, all Member States would have become State Parties to the Convention and would have ratified both the Convention and its Optional Protocol.

That would be cause for a very special celebration indeed.

Thank you,

Hissa Al Thani