International Day of Persons with Disabilities, 3 December 2015

Theme: Inclusion matters: access and empowerment for people of all abilities


Poster showing keywords relating to the theme of 2015 IDPD


The International Day of Persons with Disabilities (IDPD) has been commemorated since 1992 to promote awareness and mobilize support for critical issues relating to the inclusion of persons with disabilities in society and development. The Day works to promote action to raise awareness about disability issues and draw attention to the benefits of an inclusive and accessible society for all.

Governments, UN agencies, civil society organizations, academic institutions and the private sector are encouraged to partner with organizations of persons with disabilities to arrange events and activities to commemorate the Day.

Theme for 2015: Inclusion matters: access and empowerment for people of all abilities

The estimated one billion people living with disabilities worldwide face many barriers to inclusion in many key aspects of society. As a result, people with disabilities do not enjoy access to society on an equal basis with others, which includes areas of transportation, employment, and education as well as social and political participation. The right to participate in public life is essential to create stable democracies, active citizenship and reduce inequalities in society.

Persons with disabilities must be able to fulfil their role in society and participate on an equal basis with others. It is important to focus on the ability and not on the disability of an individual. Often, the societal image of persons with disabilities is impacted by attitudes based on stigma and discrimination, as well as archaic ideas about disability and persons with disabilities that are often the greatest barrier to their full and equal participation in society and development on an equal basis with others. It is important to note that disability is part of the human condition, and that all of us either are or will become disabled to one degree or another during the course of our lives.

By promoting empowerment, real opportunities for people are created. This enhances their own capacities and supports them in setting their own priorities. Empowerment involves investing in people – in jobs, health, nutrition, education, and social protection. When people are empowered they are better prepared to take advantage of opportunities, they become agents of change and can more readily embrace their civic responsibilities.

Sub-themes for IDPD 2015:

Making cities inclusive and accessible for all

It is estimated that by 2050, 66% of the world’s population will be living in cities. The United Nations’ Third Global Conference on Housing and Sustainable Development – Habitat III  – will take place in 2016 to review the progress, experience and lessons learnt in the past and to design a “New Urban Agenda”. This Agenda of focused policies and strategies is hoped to harness the power and forces behind urbanization. Habitat III will provide an important platform for the world’s urban development policy-makers and practitioners, as well as those working in the field of disability to review current practices and identify opportunities for change.

Importantly, the New Urban Agenda must ensure that future cities, towns and basic urban infrastructures and services are more environmentally accessible, user-friendly and inclusive of all people’s needs, including persons with disabilities. The International Day will be used to discuss and present some best practices of inclusive urbanization.


Improving disability data and statistics

The lack of data and information on disability and the situation of persons with disabilities at the national level contribute to the invisibility of persons with disabilities in official statistics. This presents a major obstacle to achieving development planning and implementation that is inclusive of persons with disabilities. In particular, to be internationally comparable, data should be collected in line with international standards. Data collected can be used the implementation and monitoring of internationally agreed development goals for persons with disabilities, such as the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

The International Day will be used to highlight measures to strengthen national capacities to improve and mainstream disability data collection, based on existing good practices. The Day will also be used to highlight challenges and map out strategies to involve persons with disabilities and their organizations in disability data and statistics collection and dissemination.


Including persons with invisible disabilities in society and development

Persons with mental and psychosocial disabilities represent a significant proportion of the world’s population. Millions of people worldwide have mental health conditions and an estimated one in four people globally will experience a mental health condition in their lifetime. Almost one million people die due to suicide every year, and it is the third leading cause of death among young people. Persons  with mental and psychosocial disabilities often face stigma and discrimination (World Health Organization), as well as experience high levels of physical and sexual abuse that occur in a range of settings, including prisons, hospitals and homes. Persons with other invisible disabilities, such as persons with hearing impairments, are also at risk of exclusion from mainstream activities, education or social activities.

The International Day can be used to draw attention on the situation of persons with invisible disabilities, such as mental health and psychosocial disabilities, intellectual disabilities, as well as hearing impairments. The Day can be used to identify good practices of integrative and inclusive education, to organize social activities and awareness raising initiatives, as well as highlight good practices and make recommendations.


Events at UN Headquarters (Conference Room 4)

10.00 to 11.00 a.m. Opening

10.00 to 10.15: Musical Performance
Musicians with disabilities from the Republic of Korea

Facilitator: Ms. Daniela Bas, Director, Division for Social Policy and Development, DESA

10.15 to 11.00: Opening session

Call for Action
• Mr. Ban Ki-Moon, Secretary-General of the United Nations
• Ms. Catherine Pollard, Under Secretary-General of the Department for General Assembly and Conference Management
• H. E. Amb. Luis Gallegos/Advisor, Nippon Foundation
• Ms. Miki Matheson, Disabled Peoples’ International (DPI) (Statement)
• Ms. Maleni Chaitoo, International Disability Alliance – International Disability and Development Consortium (Statement)
• Professor Motoo Kusakabe, Founder and President of Open City Institute

Commitment to Action
• H.E. Amb. Oh Joon, Permanent Representative of PM of Republic of Korea
• H.E. Amb. Motohide Yoshikawa, Permanent Representative of PM of Japan
• H.E. Amb. Gillian Bird, Permanent Representative of PM of Australia
• H.E. Amb. Macharia Kamau, Permanent Representative of Kenya
• H.E. Amb. Diego Morejon Pazmino, Deputy Permanent Representative of PM of Ecuador
• H.E. Amb. Sebastiano Cardi, Permanent Representative of PM of Italy
• H.E. Amb. Roman Oyarzun Marchesi, Permanent Representative of PM of Spain

11:00 to 11:10: Video messages from leaders of DPOs and UN agencies (Part 1, Part 2)

11.15 a.m. to 12.15 p.m.: Panel Discussion: “Accessible New Urban Agenda and inclusion of persons with disabilities” (co-sponsors: Global Alliance on Accessible Technologies and Environments)
The panel will review the current policy and practices and how they deal with accessibility and inclusion of persons with disabilities. The discussion will also identify challenges that cities face in making urban development to be more accessible and inclusive. (Background Note)

Moderator: Ms. Yamina Djacta, UN Habitat
Introduction: Mr. Eric Guozhong Zhang, SCRPD/DESA/DSPD
• Ms. Ana Moreno, Habitat III Secretariat
• Mr. Jun Ishikawa, Cabinet Office of the Government of Japan
• Mr. Quemuel Arroyo, Policy Analyst for Accessibility, Dept. of Transportation, NYC (Presentation)
• Mr. Victor Pineda, United States Federal Architectural and Transportation Barriers Compliance Board, and Board Member GAATES (by video message)
• Mr. Eugenie Birch, World Urban Campaign /Univ. of Pennsylvania
• Ms. Venus Illagan, Rehabilitation International
• Ms. LoriAnn Girvan, GAATES

12.15 to 1.15 p.m.: Panel Discussion: “Invisible Disabilities” (co-sponsors: Argentina, Nippon Foundation)
The panel will bring attention to action points for implementing SDGs for persons with mental, intellectual or psychosocial disabilities. Panellists will share good practices and lessons learned regarding integrating mental well-being and disability in development efforts with a particular focus on experiences and expertise on improving accessibility for persons with mental, intellectual or psychosocial disabilities. (Background Note)

Moderator: H. E. Amb. Luis Gallegos/Advisor, Nippon Foundation
Opening Remarks: Akiko Ito, SCRPD/DSPD/DESA
H.E. Amb. Mateo Estreme, Chargé d’affaires a.i., Permanent Mission of Argentina
• Mr. Takashi Izutsu, Associate Professor, The University of Tokyo (Presentation)
• Mr. Atsuro Tsutsumi, Coordinator, UNU (Presentation)
• Mr. Mark van Ommeren, Scientist, WHO (by recorded presentation)
• Mr. Patricio V. Marquez, Lead Health Specialist, World Bank Group (Presentation)
• Ms. Kathyrn Goetzke, Founder, iFred
• Ms. Vivian Pender, Special Advisor, American Psychiatric Association/Chair, NGO Committee on Mental Health

1.15 to 2.30 p.m.: Panel Discussion: “Operationalizing the 2030 agenda for sustainable development: Disability data, statistics and indicators, monitoring and evaluation for inclusive development” (co-sponsors: Australia, United Kingdom, ADD International)
The panel will review the current practices of data collection and analysis and discuss how to improve the monitoring of the 2030 Agenda to make it disability-inclusive. The panel will identify good practices of disability data collection and recent efforts in disability indicators development which can be used to better inform a disability-inclusive monitoring of the 2030 Agenda. (Background Note)

Moderator: Ms. Maria Martinho, SCRPD/DSPD/DESA
Opening remarks: Ms. Akiko Ito, SCRPD/DSPD/DESA
• Amb.Caitlin Wilson, Deputy Permanent Representative, PM Australia
• Ms. Linda Hooper, UN Statistics Division/ DESA (Presentation)
• Ms. Margaret Mbogoni, UN Statistics Division/ DESA (Presentation)
• Ms. Claudia Cappa, UNICEF
• Ms. Alarcos Cieza, WHO (by video message)
• Ms. Julie Weeks, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), USA
• Mr. Derrick Cogburn, Institute on Disability and Public Policy for the ASEAN Region
• Mr. Mosharraf Hossain, Action on Disability and Development International
• Ms. Dorodi Sharma, Disabled Peoples’ International (Statement)

3.00 to 6.00 p.m.: United Nations Enable Film Festival (UNEFF)
The UNEFF presents a selection of short films from around the world to promote awareness on disability issues and to advance the full and effective participation of persons with disabilities in society and development.
Welcome: Ms. Akiko Ito, SCRPD/DSPD/DESA
• Introduction: Mr. Victor Calise, Commissioner, Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities, New York

Films Screened:
1. Steep Rain (UK)
2. Chammi – Hear Me Now (Sri Lanka)
3. A home for a new life (Moldova)
4. Pikinini Tok Tok: Voices of children with disability (Vanuatu)
5. Accomable: Enabling Adventure (UK)
6. Quincy’s Story (Cameroon)
7. Dragon Dreaming (Australia) Password: Kushia
8. An Ordinary Girl With An Extraordinary Will (Lebanon)
9. Deaf Role models in Kenya (Kenya)
10. Oltrea la linea (Beyond the line) (Italy) Password: good
11. Spectrum: A Story of the Mind (United States) Password: spfilmfestival
12. The Talents: Mawaheb (United Arab Emirates)
13. Para Normal (Canada)
14. Turning Words into Action (European stories)
15. The Catalyst Dance Residency (Australia)
16. Cal, the Writer (United States)

Further details on the Festival and screenings from previous years available at:

UN Enable Photo Exhibition “Images of Ability”
Over 150 photos from around the world were submitted, of which 10 were selected for exhibition during the IDPD, to promote awareness on the situation of persons with disabilities in society. Further details available at:

“Like Wildflowers, Like Stars” Art Exhibition by Mr. Kim Geun-tae (Flyer)
At the United Nations Headquarters, 1B Neck Area

Evening Reception and Concert, hosted by MIKTA (Invitation)
7.00 p.m. at the Permanent Mission of the Republic of Korea

#DrawDisability exhibition
#DrawDisability is a one year, youth led global campaign that GEFI is running in partnership with the Global Observatory for Inclusion and GEFI’s Youth Advocacy Group. In order to raise awareness on the issues related to disability and inclusive education, the campaign encourages dialogue among children and young people to reflect on their understanding of disability. Thousands of artworks have been received from 50 countries across the globe. The campaign draws to a close 03 December 2015, and exceptional drawings together with the 100 winning finalist will be exhibited at the United Nations in New York from 30 November until 04 December.

Heidi Latsky Dance, 9:30 to 10.00 a.m., and 2:30 to 3.00 p.m. (Visitors Lobby, UN Headquarters)
Heidi Latsky Dance will stage a movement installation of 20-30 performers who together form a living gallery. The installation features different and unexpected bodies in white clothing  (signifying all the colors of the rainbow and a metaphor for inclusion) moving as reverent sculptures in the space. Further information:
Post event press: An article about ON DISPLAY from UN Italia

United Nations Church Centre, 3 December, 3:30 – 5:00 P.M., Boss Room, 8th Floor
Manhattan Multicultural Counseling, Inc. (MMC) is holding a panel discussion on education and social inclusion. The focus will be on practical strategies and initiatives for giving access to education and social-emotional well-being for these chilldren through music, education and assistive technology (for more information:

How you can commemorate IDPD 2015 in your local community

Include: Observance of the Day provides opportunities for collaborative and inclusive events by all stakeholders – Governments, the UN system, civil society and organizations of persons with disabilities – to focus on issues related to the inclusion of persons with disabilities in society and development, both as beneficiaries and agents of change.
Organize: Hold forums, public discussions and information campaigns in support of the themes of IDPD 2015 to discuss and share ways of including and empowering persons of all abilities to develop and be fully included in their local communities.
Celebrate: Plan and organize performances everywhere to celebrate the contributions made by persons with disabilities as agents of change in the communities in which they live. Celebrate persons with disabilities by creating opportunities to help realize their potential, be it through music, sport, academia or interpersonal skills.
Take Action: A major focus of the Day is practical action to realize the objectives of the Day for persons with disabilities and their communities. So, highlight best practices and think about making recommendations to your local political leaders, businesses, academic institutions, cultural centers and others. Work to ensure that your activity leaves a legacy and brings about lasting change.

Commemorations from around the world

Themes for previous years

Themes and observances of related International Days