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International Day for Persons with Disabilities

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The UN Disability Day calls for increased inclusivity of the 15 per cent of people living with disabilities worldwide.

The Paralympics over the summer has challenged and changed many people’s view of disability.

The Games provided an opportunity for disabled sports-people to demonstrate what they can do, blowing a lot of the myths of disability out of the water.

However, living with a disability is a lifetime’s experience and current estimations claim that around fifteen per cent of people across the globe are doing just that.

One quarter of the world’s population are directly affected by disability either as carers or family members.

A fifth of those with disabilities (110-190 million people) are thought to encounter significant difficulties as a result.

Monday 3 December was International Day for Persons with Disabilities.

Announcing the day, Secretary-General of the United Nations (UN), Ban Ki-moon, highlighted the fact that in many parts of life, people with disabilities are sidelined and excluded and called for greater inclusion of people with disabilities to achieve sustainable international development.

General Assembly President Nassir Abdulaziz Al-Nasser said that we have the ability to make this happen.

“Worldwide, the link between disability, poverty and social exclusion is clear and direct.

“Yet we have at our finger tips international human rights instruments that protect and promote the rights of persons with disabilities.”

The issue of disability is often even greater for women, as expressed by sixteen-year-old Manisha Sethiya in her article for the Independent on 3 December.

She talks about her life as a blind woman living in North-West India, concluding by saying that there are two areas that need attention; employment and gender.

There is a lack of international support for people with disabilities who would benefit greatly from improved education, training and assistance enabling them to find employment, contribute to their societies and achieve independence.

She says that this is even harder for women.

“Many [disabled] women in my area are confined to the household.

“They have important roles in caring for their family and home, but they remain dependent on male family members for financial stability.”

This day of awareness raising is ever more poignant, coming in the week that we have been told that we are likely to be facing austerity measures, and the associated welfare cuts, many more years.

There was some positive news as Chancellor George Osborne promised that carer and disability benefits would be increased in-line with inflation.

But disappointingly he excluded the Employment and Support Allowance, a replacement for Incapcity Benefit, and only it is only to be given to those who are unable to work due to illness or disability.

Head of disability charity Scope, Richard Hawkes, is concerned that recent changes to welfare and the attitutde towards those who lean on it are disproportionately unfair to disabled people.

“The vast majority of disabled people need support. They aren’t feckless, they aren’t work-shy and they aren’t scroungers.”

As is clear from Sethiya’s article, most people with disabilities don’t want hand-outs – they want support and help to be independent.

Equality is not just about women and men, but disabled and able-bodied. It is only by inclusion that we can really improve things on an international scale.

“This multi-dimensional exclusion represents a huge cost, not only to persons with disabilities but to society as a whole. This year’s International Day of Persons with Disabilities reminds us that development can only be sustainable when it is equitable, inclusive and accessible for all,” said Ban Ki-moon.

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