International Day of Persons with Disabilities

3rd December 2020

Today the MHREC chose to spotlight the International Day for Persons with Disabilities (IDPD), an international day celebrated every 3rd December. This day focuses on the empowerment of persons with disabilities for inclusive, equitable and sustainable development. In line with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the emphasis is also on the effort of ‘leaving no one behind’ and recognizing disability as a cross-cutting issue.

Persons with disabilities, who are referred to by the UN as “the world’s largest minority”, have generally poorer health, lower education achievements, fewer economic opportunities and higher rates of poverty than people without disabilities. Why is this? This is typically due to the lack of services available such as information and communications technology (ICT), justice or transportation, as well as the many obstacles they face in their everyday lives.

These obstacles can take a variety of forms, including those relating to:

  • physical environment; 
  • legislation or policy; 
  • societal attitudes or discrimination.

The annual observance of the International Day of Disabled Persons was proclaimed in 1992 by United Nations General Assembly resolution 47/3. This observance was an effort to promote the rights and well-being of persons with disabilities in several aspects of society and development as well as to increase much needed awareness of the situation of persons with disabilities in every aspect of political, social, economic and cultural life.

The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) recognizes that the existence of barriers constitutes a central component of disability. Within the CRPD, disability is seen an evolving concept that “results from the interaction between persons with impairments and attitudinal and environmental barriers that hinder their full and effective participation in society on an equal basis with others.” The CRPD was adopted on 13 December 2006, opened for signature on 30 March 2007 and entered into force on 3 May 2008. Malta signed the UNCRPD and the Optional Protocol in March 2007, which were ratified in October 2012 and came into effect on the 9th November 2012. 

Accessibility and inclusion of persons with disabilities are fundamental rights that are not only objectives, but also pre-requisites for the enjoyment of other rights. Article 9, specifically on accessibility, seeks to enable persons with disabilities to live independently and participate fully in all aspects of life and development.

More recently in 2019, the United Nations Disability Inclusion Strategy was actioned to provide a foundation for sustainable and transformative progress on disability inclusion through all pillars of the work of the United Nations. It is interesting to note that the current strategy was modelled on the United Nations System-wide Action Plan on Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women, which has been recognized by Member States as a pioneering accountability framework.

In Malta

The Commission for the Rights of Persons with Disability (CRPD) strives to help Maltese society be an inclusive one, in such a way that persons with disabilities reach their full potential in all aspects of life, enjoying a high quality of life thanks to equal opportunities. It has been appointed as the Independent Mechanism of the UNCRPD to protect, promote and monitor the implementation of the UNCRPD. The CRPD has an extensive library of leaflets and information regarding Maltese Legislation relating to the rights of persons with disability.

Amidst the Covid-19 pandemic a Disability Task Force was set up to monitor the impact on the disability sector. Established in April 2020, the Task Force is attempting to ensure a holistic approach and involves different individuals, entities and organisations that are directly involved within the disability sector. 

The Platform of Human Rights Organisations in Malta’s (PHROM) report on the rights of the child, (published April 2019) highlighted an issue relating to children with disabilities. It stated that according to the Commission for the Rights of Persons with Disability, there has been a significant increase in complaints filed by families with a disabled child concerning education. The issues pertained to the lack of support, resources in schools, and support educators.

“When we secure the rights of people with disabilities, we move closer to achieving the central promise of the 2030 Agenda – to leave no one behind.”

António Guterres UN SG 2019

What is the world doing today?

Considering that even under ‘normal’ circumstances, persons with disabilities are less likely to access education, healthcare and income opportunities or participate in the community, the pandemic has not only aggravated these inequalities but produced new threats. With this in mind, four overarching areas of action have been identified:

  • Ensure mainstreaming of disability in all COVID-19 response and recovery together with targeted actions.
  • Ensure accessibility of information, facilities, services and programmes in
    the COVID-19 response and recovery. 
  • Ensure meaningful consultation with and active participation of persons with disabilities and their representative organizations in all stages of the COVID-19 response and recovery.
  • Establish accountability mechanisms to ensure disability inclusion in the COVID-19 response.

Snippets of data

  • With a global population of 7 billion people, over 1 billion people in the world have some form of disability
  • More than 100 million disabled persons are children
  • 80% of all people with disabilities live in a developing country
  • 50% of disabled persons cannot afford health care
  • 180 countries have ratified the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities
  • According to a survey on loneliness by the University of Malta, 57.2% of people who have some form of disability suffer from moderate to very severe levels of loneliness.

What are the related days of Observance?

4 January: World Braille Day 

21 March: World Down Syndrome Day 

2 April: World Autism Day

23 September: International Day of Sign Languages 

10 December: Human Rights Day

Spotlight on Maltese NGOs tirelessly working on the ground

Inspire believes that everyone has a right to equality and inclusion. Their mission is to try to help everyone with a disability to achieve this. They do this by providing individuals and their families with educational, therapeutic and leisure services. They also advocate for inclusion, , educate the general public, raise awareness among peers, and hold the best knowledge base in Malta.

Special Olympics Malta strives to provide year-round sports training and athletic competition in a variety of Olympic-type sports for children and adults with intellectual disabilities to give them continuing opportunities to develop physical fitness, demonstrate courage, experience joy and participate in a sharing of gifts, skills and friendship with their families, other Special Olympics Athletes, and the community.

Please share with us how YOU will make someone feel empowered today!

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