International Day of Persons with Disabilities

December 3rd is the International Day for Persons with Disabilities (IDPD). Established by the World Programme of Action concerning Disabled Persons, the IDPD was adopted by the United Nations (UN) General Assembly in 1982. The official title of the Day was changed from the ‘International Day of Disabled Persons’ to the ‘International Day of Persons with Disabilities’ by the General Assembly Resolution in December of 2007. This title change reflects the disabled community’s focus to people first (For example, I am a person first and a person with disability second).

The UN stipulates that the aim of the IDPD is to “promote an understanding of disability issues and to gain support for the dignity, rights and well-being of persons with disabilities”. It also seeks “to help integrate persons with disabilities into every aspect of the political, social, economic and cultural life of their communities”.

The 2012 theme for the IDPD is “Making the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) Inclusive: Empowerment of person’s with disabilities and their communities around the world”. The MDG established a set of developmental objectives for the global community. Comprised of UN agencies, governments and civil society, the goals set out in the MDG “to reduce poverty, improve health and address educational and environmental concerns and the world’s most pressing development problems”. The MDGs are specifically designed to address the needs of the world’s poorest citizens, however, shockingly, there are currently no references to people with disabilities in MDGs. The international community desperately needs to mainstream disability in the MDG process.

The UN states the observance of the Day provides opportunity for participation by all interested communities – governmental, non-governmental and the private sector – to promote greater interest and awareness of persons with disabilities.

As such, I felt it was important to make a statement to my community to include everyone in the importance of the Day.

About 1.8 million, or 15.5% of Ontarians, has a disability. So the International Day of Persons with Disabilities does have the ability to impact a large number of people in our community.

So how does Toronto feed into the International Day of Persons with Disabilities’ aim by promoting an understanding of disability issues and integrate people with disabilities into the community?

Unfortunately, I’m not very happy about the answer. In the past the International Day of Persons with Disabilities was supported by the City at locations like Variety Village and the CNIB, and attended by City officials, including former Toronto Mayor David Miller.

But this year the City of Toronto has posted a notice to its website saying the annual event would not be held, instead stating the event will be recognized with a proclamation by Mayor Rob Ford on December 8th as an evening event celebrating Human Rights Day in the Council Chamber of City Hall.

International Day of Persons with DisabilitiesApparently, the Chair of the Accessibility Advisory Committee Chair, City Councillor Adam Vaughan, stated he has no idea the event had been cancelled. He further states that  Ford tried to shut down the citizen committee but realized he couldn’t after it was pointed out to him that having an AAC is a requirement under Provincial Law.

Vaughan has gone on record stating his belief that the Mayor’s office has been moving away from supporting people with disabilities, and Vaughan is currently trying to re-establish the committee now.

Its a committee near and dear to my heart, as I was serving as Chair of the Accessibility Advisory Committee when I was living in Oakville. Since my move to the City I’ve been unable to connect with the Committee, and now I have an idea why. I’ll certainly try my best efforts to ensure that something like this doesn’t happen again next year, hopefully by that time I’ll be serving on the Committee again.

Maybe now that Mayor Ford isn’t technically our Mayor anymore isn’t necessarily a bad thing for our community of people with disabilities. Maybe now is the perfect time for us to help vote in a new Mayor. But whether its a new mayor or the old one, I’m just keen for disability issues to be listened to and for the disability community to be honoured. Celebrating our challenges and our gains is very important to continue to move our cause forward. The goal is complete intergration – and when that happens, now that’s a day I’m excited to celebrate 🙂

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