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Celebrating inclusion: International Day of People with Disabilities

Celebrating inclusion: International Day of People with Disabilities

Each year in December, the United Nations (UN) and participating countries celebrate the International Day of People with Disabilities. This year, the celebration is drawing attention to the need for inclusion and its benefits, so that people with disabilities are able to participate in society fully and equitably.

When people with disabilities interact with others on a daily basis in all aspects of life, it’s good for the people with disabilities—and also for the people interacting with them.

Why we celebrate International Day of People with Disabilities

December 3 was first identified as International Day of People with Disabilities by the UN in 1992. According to the UN, the goal of the day is to “promote an understanding of disability issues and to mobilize support for the dignity, rights and well-being of persons with disabilities.”

Each year, a different theme is selected to support that goal. The theme for 2023 is “United in action to rescue and achieve the SDGs for, with and by persons with disabilities.”

What does that mean, though? That’s a good question! SDGs are sustainable development goals—17 objectives the UN wants to achieve by 2030 that will transform the world for people with disabilities.

Because of war, natural disasters and other factors, the UN’s participating countries have fallen behind in achieving these goals, which is why this year’s theme focuses on “rescuing” them.

Among the goals that the UN hopes to achieve by 2030 are reducing poverty among those with disabilities, eliminating hunger, improving healthcare and education, promoting gender equality, and improving access to decent work and economic growth.

How to help those with disabilities thrive

While these goals seem big picture in nature, we can all play a role in helping to achieve them. Your everyday interactions with people who have disabilities can make a big difference.

The most significant thing you can do to help those with disabilities thrive is to simply treat them with respect and dignity. Help them to become a true part of the community.

It’s important to pay attention to the person, not simply to the disability. Before offering assistance, first make sure the person needs and wants your help.

If your help is accepted, ask what you can do and how you should do it. Your instincts for what’s needed may not match the reality. Each person will know his or her own needs much better than you can guess.

Do whatever you can to involve those with disabilities in every aspect of life, including the workplace, schools, church life and the community. Research has specifically shown that children with disabilities benefit from this type of inclusion in significant ways—gaining friendship skills, problem-solving capabilities, an improved self-image and respect for others.

Adults with disabilities benefit similarly, and more than that, we benefit as a society when everyone is included. Working and living alongside people with different abilities, perspectives, attributes and backgrounds is what makes the world go around.

Inclusion plays a major role in overcoming gaps and barriers for those with disabilities. In addition to including those with disabilities in everyday activities, you can also help them thrive by advocating for them within the community.

Look for ways to advance their needs and concerns with policies at the local, regional, state and even federal level. Policies related to accessibility are especially important, and every step counts.

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