International Day of People with Disability (IDPwD) was held on 3 December. This is a United Nations sanctioned day that is celebrated across the world. The Australian Government has supported the day since 1996. The day aims to promote the human rights of people with disability and promote awareness of disability in social, political, economic and cultural life.
This year’s theme was “transformation towards a sustainable and resilient society for all”. I guess one could ask what does that really mean? At its most basic level it is about ensuring that no one is left behind.
Social justice, social inclusion and social recognition are important pillars of ensuring that no one is left behind. Including the person with a disability and ensuring that they have access and involvement in community is fundamental to this. The NDIS will go a long way to supporting this goal however it is every little interaction that a person with a disability has with others in a community that will have as big an impact as the structural reform that NDIS brings. It is the smile on the street, the small talk at the counter, the moving out of the way for the wheelchair, it is the hundreds of everyday interactions that will ultimately show the person with a disability their place in community.
I would like to think the day is also about celebrating the achievements of people with a disability; highlighting their abilities instead of focusing on their disability. For many years there has been a saying, don’t Dis my ability. Many times in my career I have been amazed at what individuals who face what seem insurmountable challenges can achieve.
I am unashamedly inspired by Madeline Stuart, a young woman with Downs Syndrome who has modeled in New York; Kurt Harry Fearnley, OAM who is an Australian wheelchair racer, who has won gold medals at the Paralympic Games and ‘crawled’ the Kokoda Track; and companies who actively discriminate to employ people who suffer from austism like start-up Xceptional that has found that individuals with autism make excellent software testers.
I recognise that not every individual with a disability can achieve at such a high level but every individual with a disability can achieve and their individual achievements will be as individual as they are. My role and your role is to recognise the achievements of people with a disability and make space and grace to celebrate them no matter how minor or insignificant the achievement may seem. Achievement will come in many forms a new skill, a new word, increased independence, a new friend, whatever it is let us not miss the chance to recognise, celebrate and enjoy the moment.