International Day of People with Disability – 30 years of creating a more inclusive world

A group of disabled people

Tomorrow will be the 30th annual International Day of People with Disability, a day for us all to acknowledge the contributions and achievements of people with disability, and advocate for a more inclusive future for all.

Let’s take a look back at the history of disability rights in Australia and explore why this year’s event – with its theme ‘Leadership and participation of persons with disabilities toward an inclusive, accessible and sustainable post-COVID-19 world’ – is so special for so many.

Supporting people with disability in Australia

There are around 4.4 million Australians living with some form of disability. The number rises to nearly 1 in 4 people if you count carers, support staff and disability health practitioners.

A quick look back at Australia’s disability rights history shows us how far we’ve come in supporting this significant group. In the 1970s, government acts brought people with disability out of institutions and back into their communities. In 1992, disability rights were acknowledged with landmark legislation against discrimination.

The Australian Government started supporting International Day of People with Disability in 1996, providing funds to support and raise awareness of the day around the country. In 2008, it adopted the UN Convention for the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which led to a public inquiry into a long-term disability care and support scheme.

This led to the creation of the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) in 2013, which has been life-changing for many Australians living with disability, who are now able to access the services and support they need to live meaningful and connected lives. But we still have a long way to go.

A global push for disability rights  

For thirty years now, International Day of People with Disability has been shining a light on the many injustices and obstacles that people with disabilities face. In the past year or so, these injustices have been brought into sharp relief.

People with disabilities have been hard hit by COVID-19. The global pandemic has deepened many pre-existing inequalities – people with disability are more likely to feel the effects of social isolation, and may find it harder to access health care and rehabilitation services. Tragically, many people with disability have lost their lives to COVID-19.

It’s why this year’s theme is so important. It’s an opportunity for everyone to reflect on the impact of major events like the pandemic on the world’s largest minority. People with disabilities total one billion people around the world, yet they remain one of the most excluded groups in our society. They generally have poorer health, lower education achievements, fewer job opportunities and higher rates of poverty than people without disabilities.

International Day of People with Disability sets out to help change this, by making a difference and improving outcomes for all the people living with disability around the world.

How can I get involved?

 International Day of People with Disability 2021 is a great opportunity for us all to share messages promoting inclusion and diversity. Here are some things you can do:

  • Check out the IDPwD website, where you’ll find inspirational stories from people with disability that you can share on your social media channels.
  • The site also has great ideas for how schools, community groups and businesses can get involved – and it doesn’t have to be tomorrow. You could plan an event for coming weeks that helps promote awareness and understanding.
  • At work, you could ask your leaders about their diversity and inclusion policies, and if you find it lacking, gently challenge them to place disability inclusion on the agenda.

It’s all about changing the way people think about disability, so we all see people’s abilities, not their disabilities. Thanks for getting on board.