International Day of Persons with Disabilities – 3 December 2009

“Making the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) disability-inclusive: Empowerment of persons with disabilities and their communities around the world”

The annual observance of the International Day of Persons with Disabilities on 3 December, aims to promote an understanding of disability issues, the rights of persons with disabilities and gains to be derived from the integration of persons with disabilities in every aspect of the political, social, economic and cultural life of their communities. The Day provides an opportunity to mobilize action to achieve the goal of full and equal enjoyment of human rights and participation in society by persons with disabilities, established by the World Programme of Action concerning Disabled Persons, adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 1982.


Globally, almost one in ten people is a person living with a disability and recent studies indicate that persons with disabilities constitute up to 20 per cent of the population living in poverty in developing countries. Many persons with disabilities continue to face barriers to their participation in their communities and are often forced to live on the margins of society.  They often face stigma and discrimination and are routinely denied basic rights such as food, education, employment, access to health and reproductive health services.  Many persons with disabilities are also forced into institutions, a direct breach of the rights to freedom of movement and to live in their communities.

The United Nations has a long history of promoting the rights and well-being of all people, including persons with disabilities. The Organization has worked to ensure their full and effective participation in the civil, political, economic, social and cultural spheres on an equal basis with others in order to achieve a society for all. The Organization’s commitment to the full and equal enjoyment of all human rights by persons with disabilities is deeply rooted in a quest for social justice and equity in all aspects of societal development.  The World Programme of Action concerning Disabled Persons and the Standard Rules on Equalization of Opportunities for Persons with Disabilities translated the Organization’s commitment into an international policy framework, which has been further strengthened by the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, an international legal instrument, to empower persons with disabilities to better their lives and that of their communities around the world.

MDGs and persons with disabilities

The United Nations and the global community continue to work for the mainstreaming of persons with disabilities in all aspects of society and development. Although many commitments have been made to include disability and persons with disabilities in development, the gap between policy and practice continues.

Ensuring that persons with disabilities are integrated into all development activities is essential in order to achieve internationally agreed development goals, such as the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).  The MDGs can only be achieved if persons with disabilities and their family members are included. This in turn will ensure that people with disabilities and their family members benefit from international development initiatives. Efforts to achieve the MDGs and implement the Convention are interdependent and mutually reinforcing. Find out more about the MDGs and persons with disabilities.

An Important Tool for Action: Community-Based Rehabilitation (CBR) a bridge between policy and practice

A thriving approach to integrate persons with disabilities in development that is practiced in over 90 countries around the world is community-based rehabilitation (CBR). CBR is part of the general community-development strategy intended to reduce poverty, equalize opportunities and involve individuals with disabilities in society. CBR is a flexible, dynamic and adaptable strategy to different socio-economic conditions, terrain, cultures and political systems throughout the world. It includes access to health care, education, livelihood, community participation and inclusion. Empowerment of disabled people and their family members are key components of a good CBR programme.

CBR provides a link between people with disabilities and development initiatives.  CBR is implemented through the combined efforts of persons with disabilities, their families, organizations and communities, and relevant government and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) working in the development sector. CBR works to ensure development initiatives are inclusive of people with disabilities and is increasingly considered as an essential component of community development.  Through community action it serves to empower persons with disabilities (individually and within groups) to realize their rights and promote respect for their inherent dignity, ensuring that they have the same rights and opportunities as other community members.

This year, new ideas and options may be further explored as to how CBR can be used as a tool in operationalizing CRPD, Inclusive MDGs, similar national legislations and highlight the crucial importance of the inclusion and participation of persons with disabilities and their contributions in the development of their societies. Find our more about Community-Based Rehabilitation.

How the Day may be observed

Include: Observance of the Day provides opportunities for participation by all interested parties–Governmental, non-governmental and the private sector–to focus upon catalytic and innovative measures to further implement international norms and standards related to persons with disabilities. Schools, universities and similar institutions can make particular contributions with regard to promoting greater interest and awareness among interested parties of the social, cultural, economic, civil and political rights of persons with disabilities.

Organize: Hold forums, public discussions and information campaigns in support of the Day focusing on disability issues and trends and ways and means by which persons with disabilities and their families can be further integrated in the development of their communities.

Celebrate: Plan and organize performances everywhere to showcase – and celebrate – the contributions by persons with disabilities to the communities in which they live and convene exchanges and dialogues focusing on the rich and varied skills, interests and aspirations of persons with disabilities.

Take Action: A major focus of the Day is practical action to further implement international norms and standards concerning persons with disabilities and to further their participation in social life and development on the basis of equality. The media have especially important contributions to make in support of the observance of the Day – and throughout the year – regarding appropriate presentation of progress and obstacles implementing disability-sensitive policies, programmes and projects and to promote public awareness of the contributions by persons with disabilities to the development of their communities.

Themes and observances of previous years:

You tell us!

If you would like to commemorate the International Day of Persons with Disabilities in your community and would like to share an innovative idea that includes other stakeholders, such as your Government, a UN agency, an NGO/DPO or a community, please let us know about it. We will showcase the idea on our website to inform and inspire others to do the same. Please send your ideas to

Global Commemoration of International Day of Persons with Disabilities

Australia: To mark International Day, ABC1 is screening the premier of the rock documentary titled “Rudely Interrupted” at the Melbourne Arts Centre. (For more information:

Bangladesh: The Institute of Hazrat Mohammad SAW will provide free IT training and free access to its IT center for visually impaired visitors for the month of December. This is an initiative to make ICT-based information available to visually impaired communities in Bangladesh. (For more Information:

Cambodia: The Ministry of Social Affairs, Veterans and Youth Rehabilitation in Cambodia appointed a national committee to organize events to mark December 3rd. On the day events will be held to raise public awareness of national policies and laws protecting the rights of persons with disabilities.  The Cambodian Prime Minister, Samdech Hun Sen is expected to preside over at a national level event in Phnom Penh. ((For more information: ; )

Canada: In Alberta, Barrhead Community Council will be hosting a free dinner tilted “Inclusive Community Celebration” to celebrating diversity, inclusion and community.

2. On International Day, L’Arche Canada is lauching a new website focused on intellectual disabilities in Haiti ( to draw attention to people with intellectual disabilities in country suffering war or famine. In 10 L’Arche movement communities, people living with intellectual disabilities are inviting members of the public (i.e. the major of the town, a teacher, a neighbour, etc.) to participate in a variety of activities along with other local residents and celebrities to celebrate with them the upcoming International Day under the heading “I am inviting you” initiative (For more information: ).

India: 1.On the occasion of the International Day, The Handicap Welfare Service Association of Navi Mumbai will host a function to felicitate the handicapped students in Navi Mumbai area who have successfully passed in Secondary and Higher Secondary Examinations in the academic year 2009.

2. Action on Disability and Development (ADD) supported district level disabled people’s organisations in Ernakulam to take a lead role in organizing events to celebrate December 3rd. A day-long programme of events has been planned by disabled people’s organizations in the Muvattumpuzha, Angamali and Kothamangalam Blocks of Ernakulam District, Kerala state. ((For more information: ; ).

Indonesia: The Center for Disability Studies and Services will celebrate at the Islamic State University UIN Sunan Kalijaga with a Disability Awareness March to rally for the cause, discussions on empowering persons with disabilities, and a forum on disability, inclusion and best practices. There will also be showing of an Indonesian documentary “Against Incapability” by Yaketunis. (For more information:;

Ireland: South West Clare’s community radio station Raidió Corca Baiscinn will broadcast programs on disability issues, as well as music and sports programming presented and produced by people with disabilities. (For more information:

Kenya: To commemorate International Day at the Newwave Community Swim Club, a swimming event for persons with disabilities will take place. Pictures can be found at www.newwaveswimclub@info that will showcase the event.

Mozambique: Photographers Eliane Beeson and François Vaxelaire will use photography and video as instruments that will stimulate attitudes change in the society and empower persons with disabilities. On International Day, the exhibition starts simultaneously in the cities of Maputo, Beira, Nampula, and Pemba to promote the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. (For more information:;;;

Sri Lanka: On International Day, HE President Mahinda Rajapaksa will host an event prepared by the Ministry of Social Services and Social Welfare to recognize the rights of persons with disabilities. The President will declare the guarantee of equal opportunities to education, universal accessibility, financial assistance for self employment and housing and several other crucial benefits for the community of persons with disabilities. (For more information:

Sudan: In Juba, the United Nations Mission in Sudan in collaboration with South Sudan Human Rights Commission will host a panel discussion to celebrate this year International Day of Persons with Disabilities. The function will include representatives of key Government and non-government institutions that could improve equal enjoyment of the rights of persons with disabilities. (For more information:

Uganda: A month long programme of events began on November 2nd with a press conference declaring “Disability Month”. Events organized for the month include: Workshop on Ugandan Laws and their compliance to disability issues; eight radio live phone-in talk shows focusing on the theme of empowering disabled people and their communities and the child to child programme (where children with disabilities visit fellow non-disabled children in schools) to mention just a few. (For more information: ; ).

United Kingdom: 1. In Essex, the Chelmsford Borough Council will host a Wheelchair Basket Ball Display, an entertainment by  James Maggs, the Mencap Gateway Dancers, guest speakers on Social Inclusion and Inclusive design. (For more information:

2. To mark the day, a group of persons with disabilities at leading disability charity, Papworth Trust, are launching a recording of a song they have written entitled “Human is our Name.” The goal is to change a lot of people’s attitudes to disability, break down the barriers and encourage involvement and empowerment. (For more information:;

3. Aqoon Community and Education Services will an informative video, “Addaala,” about disability and the stigma attached in Somalia. (For more information:;

4. In North London, Haringey Disability First Consortium is launching a new forum for persons with disabilities to promoting the idea that contributing to your community helps health and wellbeing and can change people’s perceptions of their neighbors with disabilities. (For more information:

5. The Health Professions Council will be featuring the film “I Am One of You” to explore the issues of inclusiveness and empowerment. (For more information:; 6. The Muscular Dystrophy Campaign and Trailblazers, a group of young disabled campaigners, are launching a campaign called Inclusion Now. (For more information:; 6. Salford University Disabled Staff (SUDS) Network is co-coordinating a series of activities at the University to celebrate the day. Stalls set up in University House atrium where departments including Information and Learning Services, Student Life and Human Resources will outline their facilities and services available to people with disabilities. (For more information: or ).

7. On 3rd December 2009 Disability Wales will mark the UN International Day of Disabled People by holding an event in North Wales where persons with disabilities will take part in an event ‘access quest’ to show politicians access barriers encountered on their quest to access their local high street shops and services.

8. The University of St Andrews will launch its Disability Awareness Week and “Equality Briefing on Disability” to all members of staff. (For more information: or email;

United States: 1. Rehabilitation International (RI) will feature guest speakers and a video in a fundraiser to support persons with disabilities on International Day. (For more information:

2. The Center for Studying Disability Policy will hold a seminar series named “Disability and Poverty: What Is the Connection and What Should We Do About It?” (For more information:

3. In Kentucky, the Mattingly Center, Inc. and Cerebral Palsy School of Louisville Foundation will be observing International Day in a forum with state and senate representatives as well as the Mayor and Congressman to celebrate the lives of the program participants and discuss the successes and challenges that the population faces within their communities. (For more information:

Viet Nam: Disability Resource and Development will show case the talents of people living with disability using creative art and music. Activities to enhance disability awareness and to promote community involvement are planned for the duration of the event. (For more information:;

Zambia: On December 3rd there will be a March lead by the Zambia Police Brass Band, an exhibition for persons with disabilities and members of the public to exhibit their products and services. At the exhibition speeches will be made by the chair of ZAFOD and ZAPD, the MDG representative, the Minister of Community Development and the Republican President.  The National Paralympics Committee of Zambia have also organised a sports event to celebrate the day. (For more information: ; )