Expert Voices Vol 25, No. 12 - December 2021

Shaping a future where everyone is included

Around the world, 1 billion people live with some form of disability. How can we make sure that our societies embrace and empower everyone regardless of their abilities? Ahead of International Day of Persons with Disabilities, we spoke with UN DESA’s Daniela Bas to find out and to learn more about celebrations happening worldwide to mark the day.

Faced with increasing inequalities and political divides, how can the world shape a future that includes everyone?

“Persons with disabilities, more than 15% of the world’s population, are more likely to live in poverty and have less access to education, health care, decent income, or opportunities to participate in decision-making within their communities. Delivering on the 2030 Agenda’s promise to ‘leave no one behind’, in alignment with the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD), is a matter of social justice, economic growth, as well as an essential investment in an inclusive present and common future for the wellbeing of all.

A more coordinated approach and a change of mindset from the international level down to the local communities are needed to overcome barriers that increase the gap of inequalities in the social, economic, environmental, cultural, and political dimensions of life that may prevent  persons with disabilities to use their abilities to benefit all.”

What are the actions needed to empower the world’s one billion people living with a disability? What role do the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) play in these efforts?

“The most important action is to invest in the abilities of persons with disabilities and renew our focus on the inclusion of all people. This will be achieved by promoting accessibility through public outreach programmes and encouraging capacity building and educational programmes on disability issues.

The SDGs have the potential to reshape our world for the better if we all engage in promoting them no matter the age, ethnicity, gender and disability.”

Our world is witnessing fast technological progress, how are new innovations benefitting persons with disabilities? Are there any new assistive technologies to look out for?

“New innovations and technologies play a vital role in nearly all aspects of our life, including education, work, health as well as culture, sports and recreational activities. They are even more beneficial for those persons with disabilities who may need assistive technologies.

Accessible and assistive technologies (AT) can help many persons with disabilities overcome daily obstacles in navigating difficulties in communicating and in accessing environments, in education, at work and living independently.

According to the World Intellectual Property Organization’s (WIPO) Technology Trends Report 2021: “New AT are emerging such as assistive robots, smart home applications, smart medication management, wearables for visually impaired and smart glasses as well as products like wheelchair seats or wheels adjusted for different terrains, environmental alarms and Braille-enabled devices”.

The International Day of Persons with Disabilities will be celebrated on 3 December this year. Can you tell us some more about the commemoration?

“This year, the theme of the Day is “Leadership and participation of persons with disabilities toward an inclusive, accessible and sustainable post-COVID-19 world” and it will be celebrated all over the world. Below are three examples:

1. At Expo Dubai, we will focus on sharing good practices for an inclusive future for all and empowering stories and innovative solutions of persons with disabilities from all over the world. It will also be the space to promote the acceleration of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and its 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) showcasing the efforts of the international community to reduce the gap of inequalities (SDG 10) and promote full participation and inclusion leaving no one behind, as well exploring key issues like education (SDG 4), decent work (SDG 8), accessibility (SDG 11) , innovation/technology (SDG 9), and sport.

2. At the United Nations Headquarters in New York City, a virtual event will be held on “Reducing inequalities through technologies:  A perspective on disability inclusive development” as part of the WSIS TalkX, co-organized by UN DESA, the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) and the International Telecommunications Union (ITU). The  aim is to increase awareness of the importance of supporting innovation ecosystems to spur the development of new and improved assistive technologies.

3. The Special Envoy of the United Nations Secretary-General on Disability and Accessibility is organizing a virtual event on “Leadership of the new generations: Children and adolescents with disabilities and their voices post COVID-19” with United Cities and Local Governments (UCLG) and co-sponsored by the Permanent Mission of Chile to the United Nations.”

Learn more about the International Day of Persons with Disabilities and events to commemorate the day: http://bit.ly/UN-2021IDPD

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