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UN Programme on Disability   Working for full participation and equality

  The United Nations and Disabled Persons -The First Fifty Years

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Chapter VI

The World Programme of Action Concerning Disabled Persons:
the 1980s

The International Year of Disabled Persons, 1981, was celebrated with numerous programmes, research projects, policy innovations and recommendations. Many conferences and symposiums were held during the Year, including the First Founding Congress of Disabled People International, held in Singapore from 30 November to 6 December. The Trust Fund for the International Year, established in 1977, collected over $510,000 in contributions from member States.

In 1982, the General Assembly took a major step towards ensuring effective follow-up to the International Year by adopting, on 3 December 1982, the World Programme of Action concerning Disabled Persons. The Programme restructured disability policy into three distinct areas: prevention; rehabilitation; and equalization of opportunities.

"We still need things like housing we can live in. Then the neighbours will see how independent we are and how we are looking after our house, our wife, our we are performing our duties as independent citizens…." --Shahid Memon, Asian Blind Union, Pakistan

Implementation of the Programme of Action, using multisectoral and multidisciplinary approaches, was addressed by the General Assembly on 3 December 1982 and 22 November 1983. In a broad sense, implementation would entail long-term strategies integrated into national policies for socio-economic development, preventive activities that would include development and use of technology for the prevention of disablement, and legislation eliminating discrimination regarding access to facilities, social security, education and employment. At the international level, Governments were requested to cooperate with each other, the United Nations and non-governmental organizations.

Together, the Programme and the International Year had launched a new era--one that would seek to define "handicapped" as the relationship between persons with disabilities and their environment. It was imperative that the barriers created by society to full participation by persons with disabilities be removed.

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United Nations, 2003-04
Department of Economic and Social Affairs
Division for Social Policy and Development