Saturday, December 3, marked the 19th annual International Day of Persons with Disabilities. Sponsored by the United Nations, people from around the world recognize this day in an effort to further an understanding of people with disability and encourage support for their dignity, rights, and overall well-being. This year’s theme was, “Together for a better world for all: Including persons with disabilities in development.” According to the World Health Organization, around 10% of the world’s children have some type of physical or mental health impairment, and around 80% of those children live in developing countries. Unfortunately, children with disabilities are among the most marginalized and excluded groups of children. Compared to their peers, they are routinely denied access to health, education and social services. They are often excluded from opportunities to participate in their communities, and are more vulnerable to violence and abuse. “Children with disabilities have the same rights as all children, and they deserve the same chance to make the most of their lives and to make their voices heard,” said Anthony Lake, UNICEF Executive Director. “We need to break down the barriers that prevent full participation of children with disabilities – from programs that ignore their needs, to prejudice that discounts their ability to contribute.” UNICEF includes children with disabilities in all aspects of its work, from helping ensure access to services for disabled children and their caregivers, to changing laws and cultures that prevent children with disabilities from participating fully in their societies. UNICEF works with many partners to overcome these barriers. For example, UNICEF and Special Olympics International work together to advocate for health care, education, recreational sports, and employment policies to benefit children with intellectual disabilities (see our blog on the UNICEF-Special Olympics announcement in Athens). Everyone, regardless of their age, gender, or ability, plays an important role in their community. By including men, women, and children with disabilities, without discrimination or judgment, we help create a stronger, more supportive future for all.
UN Enable is the official website of the Secretariat for the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, and provides public information on topics related to disability, and the work of the UN for persons with disabilities.