By Sofy Maxman, EI Blogger
Since 1992, International Day of Persons With Disabilities has been observed throughout the globe. The United Nations’ promotion of this day serves as encouragement to understand, support, and increase awareness of people living with disabilities throughout all facets of society. This awareness day is recognized each year on December 3rd as a way to take time to think about the commitments we make each day to make our societies more accessible and accepting of all people. Every day, it is important to think of the microaggressions that we may partake in to further exclude persons with disabilities. We must work to combat those aggressions to further develop an accessible society.
Each year, the UN announces a specific theme for observance. The purpose of a theme is to better hone in on specific actions we can take to strive for the removal of barriers (whether they be physical, technological, or other) facing persons with disabilities. Past themes have included: “Nothing about Us without Us” (2004), “Arts, Culture and Independent Living” (1997), and “Making information technologies work for all” (1999). This year’s theme was “Transforming toward sustainable and resilient society for all”. This theme centers around the idea that it is pertinent for the well-being of future generations to create policy and developments that will meet the needs of today’s society without compromising the future generations. The UN defines the three pillars of sustainable development as “economic growth, social inclusion and environmental protection” (http://www.un.org/sustainabledevelopment/development-agenda/). Undoubtedly, persons with disabilities are affected by the constantly transforming medical and economic policies put forth by the government. It is important to rid our society of ableist language and ableist tendencies in order to move forward towards a sustainable and resilient community.
Ableism, defined as “discrimination in favor of able-bodied people,” exists in everyday places. It exists in the lack of wheelchair accessibility ramps and in the ableist language we use perhaps without realizing. It is in the assumption that disabilities are always visible, when in fact invisible disabilities come in far too many forms. Arguably, the dictionary definition of “ableism” is ironically ableist towards folks with disabilities that may not affect their physical expression, but do so mentally, emotionally, or otherwise. It is important to constantly check ourselves and our language so as to not perpetuate the stereotypes surrounding disabilities.
For more information about International Day of Persons With Disabilities, Ableism & Ableist Language, and more, check out these sites: