Inclusion matters: Access and empowerment for people of all abilities.
December 3rd is recognized worldwide as the International Day of Persons with Disabilities (IDPD).
Sanctioned by the United Nations, the intention of IDPD is to increase public awareness through better understanding and acceptance of people with disabilities. IDPD is a day to celebrate the contributions and achievements made around the world by people with disabilities and, to encourage support for their rights, dignity, and well-being.
Advocate for persons with disabilities
As a caregiver, you may be providing care for someone who has a disability and you’ve probably become quite familiar with the preferences and capabilities of the person in your care.
It’s important to remember that not everyone you meet will have the same level of understanding towards a person with a disability. Part of your role as a caregiver is to act as an advocate for the person in your care.
One way you can achieve this is by educating yourself on disability issues, and guiding others if they are unsure what to do when interacting with the person in your care.
There is an estimated one billion people worldwide living with a disability, and 80 per cent of them live in developing countries.
The International Day of Persons with Disabilities recognizes that disabled persons are people first; people who want to participate and contribute in a meaningful way by actively being part of their communities.
By focusing on the ability (not the disability) of the person in your care, you are empowering them to live a fulfilling, independent, and productive life.
Each year the United Nations designates a main theme and additional subthemes for the IDPD, to not only help direct the focus to particular concerns of those living with disabilities, but also on areas where we can all make improvements.
2015 IDPD theme:
Inclusion matters: access and empowerment for people of all abilities.
2015 IDPD sub-themes:
- Making cities inclusive and accessible for all
- Improving disability data and statistics
- Including persons with invisible disabilities in society and development
These IDPD themes are important to improve accessibility and inclusiveness within communities.
Barriers to inclusion & participation
Physical barriers - Often buildings, educational settings, social venues, and work situations create barriers to inclusion and participation for many who are disabled. These settings are designed for those who are able bodied, and subsequently may exclude those with varying levels of disability.
It’s not just physical structures that can create barriers.
Mental barriers - Our attitudes and beliefs can also create barriers to inclusion in terms of what we think people are able to do. These attitudes and beliefs can stem from things like:
- Old-fashioned ways of thinking
- Lack of education surrounding disability
- Or just a lack of experience interacting with differently-abled people
When in doubt, the best practice is to simply ask. See our Elizz article on communicating more effectively with the person in your care.
You should always expect that someone with a disability will be able to participate in education, workplace, and community. Look for ways to eliminate barriers so that everyone can be included.
There are several ways to celebrate IDPD in your community. Here are some ideas for you and the person in your care to participate in IDPD:
Some communities organize public forums to discuss the year’s IDPD themes. The hope is that through these public discussions community members will share ideas to increase inclusion and empowerment within their communities. Informational campaigns are also an effective method used to spread awareness.
Celebrate through performance
Turning the day into a true celebration through the organization of performances around the community helps to keep the spirit lively, but still provides education on a serious issue. Enlisting community members to perform can help people with disabilities to realize their potential. Community support can provide a boost in confidence and help to change perceptions.
One of the most important goals of IDPD is to really take action on proposed improvements to inclusivity in your community. This can be in the form of making recommendations to political leaders, academic institutions, businesses, and cultural centres in your community. It’s an opportunity to put the focus on best practices and find new ways to incorporate positive change in your community.
Choosing to participate in IDPD is a way for you, as a caregiver, to better understand how the person with a disability in your care participates in the world. It’s an opportunity to learn, and it can give you a new perspective and understanding of those in your community.
Ask yourself and others:
How can what we do every day be accessible to everyone, and empower people to be part of and contribute to their communities in a meaningful way?