International Day of People with Disability

| December 3, 2017

When OpenForum’s editor sent me an email asking if I’d be interested in writing an article for International Day of People with Disability, I’m not going to lie, I didn’t even know there was such a thing as this. I mean, it’s not like there’s a Mardi Gras-type parade held every year on the 3rd of December to celebrate disabled pride.

Probably because disabled pride isn’t a talked-about thing. Not enough people know about this day or what it represents. I wouldn’t even know it was an international day if it weren’t for the internet, and I have a disability!

The UN has been announcing a global theme on the 3rd of December every year since 1992 for International Day of People with Disability. The theme this year is “Transformation towards sustainable and resilient society for all”. The overarching principle of this theme is to ‘leave no one behind’ and empower people with disability to be active contributors of society.

This theme represents a society I hope one day to be a part of.

In Australia we call the 3rd of December National Disability Day but it encompasses everything that the international day stands for. Melbourne paralympion, Dylan Alcott is the patron for this year, and events being held all over the country for National Disability Day are available at

Society still largely views disability as something to be feared and avoided at all costs. A lot of people out there treat disabled people as one and the same. I still get comments myself when people see me standing upright, they marvel at how tall I am, even though I am actually only a few inches above average. I find myself biting back the urge to tell them that I’m not related to Tyrion Lannister from Game of Thrones.

Progress is slow when it comes to disability rights, but we are being heard. If you asked me for an example of how perceptions of disability are shifting, I would tell you how only one decade ago people never knew how to act around my wheelchair, and it left me feeling completely worthless as a person. Fast-forward ten years and most people nowadays will go out of their way to ask me how my day is, and just treat me like any other person regardless of the wheelchair.

It may seem like a small change and there is still a lot of progress to be made, but I know we will get there eventually.

One of the current changes that I am most excited about is the National Disability Insurance Scheme. The NDIS is aimed at making mainstream education possible for all kinds of disability, and improved funding to enable those with a disability to live life to their fullest potential.

Education seems to be one of the key areas where disability has been overlooked in the past. Those of us who have been lucky enough to get a good education despite our disability have flourished, and I am excited to see how education will affect the future of disability.

The NDIS comes under a branch of the National Disability Strategy, which was brought into play in Australia by the Gillard government in 2010, with its final stage being reached in 2020. The NDIS is a unified approach aimed at improving the lives of people with disability, their families and carers. The NDIS’s ten year national framework for reform focuses on better inclusion for people with disability and seeks to create a society that enables people with disability to fulfil their potential as equal citizens.