Inclusion matters: access and empowerment for people of all abilities

“The new agenda is a promise by leaders to all people everywhere. It is an agenda for people,” declared Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon as he opened the UN Sustainable Development Summit in New York on 25 September. With the adoption of the 2030 Agenda, this year’s International Day of Persons with Disabilities on 3 December aims to mobilize support on critical issues relating to the inclusion and advancement of persons with disabilities in society and development.

Approved by 193 Member States, the new agenda includes 17 forward-looking sustainable development goals (SDGs). These new SDGs pay special attention to the most marginalized and vulnerable groups, such as those who live in poverty, those subject to discrimination and exclusion based on, among other factors, disability.

“Persons with disabilities” or “disability” are specifically mentioned 11 times in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Disability is referenced explicitly in parts related to education, growth and employment, inequality, accessibility of human settlements, as well as data collection and monitoring of the SDGs.

Making cities inclusive and accessible for all

The World Bank and World Health Organization (WHO) estimate that the one billion people living with disabilities worldwide face many barriers to inclusion in many key aspects of society.

Accessible_cities-copyAs 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.

“It is only by looking at the reality of persons with disabilities across all stages and experiences of life that we are able to fully understand the roots of exclusion and the role of accessible cities in correcting it,” said Daniela Bas, Director of UN DESA’s Division for Social Policy and Development (DSPD) in her opening remarks at the Forum on Disability Inclusion and Accessible Urban Development held in Nairobi, Kenya on 28 October.

By ensuring disability-inclusion in policy and practices and proactively promoting accessibility in urban and rural development, enabling conditions and equal opportunities for people with disabilities can be created so that they could participate fully in society and development and enjoy their basic human rights.

Following the progress in disability-inclusive development with specific references to disability in the new agenda, this year’s theme for the International Day of Persons with Disabilities is “Inclusion matters: access and empowerment for people of all abilities”. The sub –themes for the Day are: Making cities inclusive and accessible for all; Improving disability data and statistics; and Including persons with invisible disabilities in society and development.

Promoting a society accessible for all

This year, the international community is calling for the rightful place for persons with disabilities as agents and beneficiaries in society and development. After decades of collective efforts, such as through the adoption of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in 2006, and the convening of the 2013 General Assembly High-level Meeting on Disability and Development in 2015, many successful strides for a disability-inclusive 2030 development agenda have been taken.

During the UN World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction held in Sendai, Japan, earlier this year, a new and energized multi-stakeholder community advanced the “disability-inclusive disaster risk reduction” agenda with persons with disabilities as leaders and an essential resource in every step of the way for conclusion of the Sendai Framework.

In October, policy-makers, practitioners and experts convened a UN DESA/DSPD Forum to explore ways in which urban development can be more inclusive, accessible and sustainable for all, including persons with disabilities.

Building on these examples, the concerted efforts for disability-inclusive global development agenda should continue among all stakeholders in the work leading up to next year’s major events, the UN World Humanitarian Summit in Istanbul and HABITAT III in Quito.

International Day highlights the SDGs and Disability

Disability-inclusion-123x300The opening of the International Day at UN Headquarters will include a message by the Secretary-General, statements from several Permanent Representatives of Member States to the United Nations and from civil society organizations, including organizations of persons with disabilities.

Three expert panel discussions will take place to: 1) review current policies and practices toward the inclusion of persons with disabilities in urban contexts, identifying and addressing challenges that cities face in making urban development more accessible and inclusive; 2) draw attention to issues related to persons with invisible disabilities and share good practices and lessons learned in integrating mental well-being and disability in development efforts; and 3) operationalize the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development with regard to indicators, data and statistics on disability.

Later in the day, the annual UN Enable Film Festival will showcase films selected to help raise awareness of disability issues, as well as to promote the full and effective participation of persons with disabilities in society and development. A photo exhibition, entitled “Images of Ability” will be on display to promote a better understanding about disability issues, and presenting persons with disabilities as full and equal participants in the societies in which they live.

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