Today, we celebrate the United Nations’ International Day of Persons with Disabilities. Each year, since 1992, December 3rd has been commemorated to celebrate individuals worldwide with some form of disability. The purpose of this day is to promote understanding and awareness of the issues surrounding disabilities, as well as to increase the support for the rights and well being for those with disabilities. This day also seeks to celebrate the progress made from the integration of the rights of persons with a disability into various political, social, economic, and cultural societies around the world. Its purpose is to eliminate the stigma and discrimination surrounding disabilities and to facilitate a more inclusive and integrative society, with the needs of all in mind.
Each year, a theme is incorporated to celebrate this day. This year’s theme for 2015 is “Inclusion Matters: Access and Empowerment of People of All Abilities.” According to www.un.org/disabilities, there is an estimation of 1 billion people internationally who live with some sort of disability, and frequently face barriers to inclusion, making it quite challenging for them to be a part of their society. This greatly limits their accessibility and diminishes equality between persons with disabilities and persons without disabilities. The focus this year is on accessibility and building on the strengths, capacities, and abilities of those who experience some sort of disability. This year’s theme emphasizes the importance of recognizing ability over disability and to develop a cohesive and integrative society, through policy reformation and legislation amongst societies worldwide.
It is important that all members of a society have equal access and equal opportunity. Regardless of ability or disability, all members should be able to fulfill their potential in a supportive and inclusive environment. Often times, people with some sort of a disability often face challenges such as unequal accessibility and opportunity, a lack of support, and exclusivity in their communities, whether indirect or direct. Some forms of exclusivity towards persons with disability is manifested in the lack of wheelchair accessible ramps, lack of services to accommodate learning disabilities in academic institutions, lack of counselling or support resources in the community for persons with a disability, etc.
The Ryerson community has made increased efforts throughout the years to facilitate a more inclusive and accessible learning environment for students and teachers with a disability (i.e RyeACCESS). Ryerson has prided itself on its diverse student and teacher population, and acknowledges that as an academic institution, we as a community have a responsibility towards one another to ensure that the entire population is included and is provided with equal access and opportunity towards academic and career goals. We have a responsibility to ensure that the abilities of one another are maximized and remain the focus, rather than the disabilities. By focusing on one another’s abilities, rather than disabilities, it allows us to empower one another and eliminates any stigma and discrimination surrounding disabilities. It also allows us to move forward as a community and reform policies and legislations put in place, in order to create a more inclusive and supportive environment for all members of the community.