International Day of Persons with Disabilities (December 3) is an international observance promoted by the United Nations since 1992. It has been observed with varying degrees of success around the planet. The observance of the Day aims to promote an understanding of disability issues and mobilize support for the dignity, rights and well-being of persons with disabilities. It also seeks to increase awareness of gains to be derived from the integration of persons with disabilities in every aspect of political, social, economic and cultural life. It was originally called “International Day of Disabled Persons” until 2007.[1] Each year the day focuses on a different issue.

Theme for IDPD 2020: “Building Back Better: toward a disability-inclusive, accessible and sustainable post COVID-19 World”. The annual observance of the International Day of Disabled Persons was proclaimed in 1992, by the United Nations General Assembly resolution 47/3.

Definition of disability

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), a disability is any condition of the body or mind (impairment) that makes it more difficult for the person with the condition to do certain activities (activity limitation) and interact with the world around them (participation restrictions).

There are many types of disabilities, such as those that affect a person’s:








Mental health

Social relationships

Although “people with disabilities” sometimes refers to a single population, this is actually a diverse group of people with a wide range of needs. Two people with the same type of disability can be affected in very different ways. Some disabilities may be hidden or not easy to see.

According to the World Health Organization, disability has three dimensions:

 Impairment in a person’s body structure or function, or mental functioning; examples of impairments include loss of a limb, loss of vision or memory loss.

Activity limitation, such as difficulty in seeing, hearing, walking, or problem solving.

Participation restrictions in normal daily activities, such as working, engaging in social and recreational activities, and obtaining health care and preventive services.

Disability can be: Related to conditions that are present at birth and may affect functions later in life, including cognition (memory, learning, and understanding), mobility (moving around in the environment), vision, hearing, behavior, and other areas. These conditions may be

Disorders in single genes (for example, Duchenne muscular dystrophy);

Disorders of chromosomes (for example, Down syndrome);

History of Disability Day

Everything started in 1976, when the United Nations General Assembly made the decision that 1981 should be the International Year of Disabled Persons.

The 5 years between the making of that decision and the actual Year of Disabled Persons were spent contemplating the hardships of the disabled, how the opportunities of the disabled could be equalized, and how to ensure the disabled take part fully in community life enjoying all of the rights and benefits non-disabled citizens have.

Another issue that was touched on was how world governments could go about preventing disabilities from touching people in the first place; so much of the talk was about the viruses and other illnesses that lead to various kinds of disability.

The decade between 1983 and 1992 was later proclaimed the United Nations Decade of Disabled Persons, and during that time, all of the concepts previously created became parts of one long process that was implemented in order to improve the lives of disabled persons the world over.

How to Celebrate Disability Day

Each year since 1992, a variety of events are held in many countries. Disability Day is used for holding discussions, forums and campaigns relating to disability and communities are encouraged to organize meeting, talks, and even performances in their local areas.

These can range from hosting a musical event to a play, with disabled people being involved in these productions. The overall aim is to show non-disabled people that a person with a disability can be a vibrant member of society, as it happens that the entirely healthy are not always quite aware of this fact, which can lead to different kinds of discrimination of varying degrees of severity.

The disabled, on the other hand, benefit from such performances by proving to themselves that there are many things they can still do, despite their conditions, which can help with their self-esteem and avoid mental issues such as depression from plaguing them.


In general, these kinds of events are meant to challenge them and get them get rid of various stereotypes so that disabled people can enjoy lives free of discrimination and additional hardship.

Each year the day is celebrated there is an emphasis on a new aspect related to improving the lives of people living with a disability. In 2007, for example, the theme of the year was: “Decent Work for Persons with Disabilities”.

This year, the International Day of Persons with Disabilities (IDPD) falls on the same week as the Conference of States Parties to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, 30 Nov.-1 and 3 Dec. 2020 and will be observed throughout the week in conjunction with the 13th session of the Conference of States Parties to the CRPD.

Did you know?

  1. The one billion population of persons with disabilities, 80% live in developing countries.
  2. An estimated 46% of older people aged 60 years and over are people with disabilities.
  3. One in every five women is likely to experience disability in her life, while one in every ten children is a child with a disability.
  4. Persons with disabilities in the world are among the hardest hit by COVID-19.

United Nations Disability Inclusion Strategy

When we secure the rights of persons with disabilities, we move our world closer to upholding the core values and principles of the United Nations Charter. The United Nations Disability Inclusion Strategy provides the foundation for sustainable and transformative progress on disability inclusion through all pillars of the work of the United Nations: peace and security, human rights, and development.

The 2030 agenda aims at including every single person with disability, and leave no one behind. Persons with disabilities can be both beneficiaries and agents of change. They can speed up the process of sustainable development which is inclusive in nature. They can promote a society which is resilient for all, including in the context of disaster risk reduction and humanitarian action.

What are the different types of disabilities? How many people are affected? Which populations are most at risk?

 Let’s take stock of the facts and figures around the world.

How many people have disabilities in the world?

You may not see disabled people in your everyday life, and yet the WHO has identified over 2 billion disabled people, 20% of whom live with great functional difficulties in their day to day lives.

A few outstanding figures of disability around the world (according to the WHO):

⊗ 1.3 billion people are affected by some form of blindness and visual impairment. This represents 17% of the world’s population.

⊗ 466 million people have a disabling deafness and hearing loss. This represents 6% of the world’s population.

⊗ About 200 million people have an intellectual disability (IQ below 75). This represents 2.6% of the world’s population.

⊗ 75 million people need a wheelchair on a daily basis. This represents 1% of the world’s population.

These figures may remain an evolutionary average, but one thing is certain: the number of people affected by any form of disability represents a significant part of the world population, from adults to children. It is also important to underline the fact that some people are multi-handicapped and have multiple disabilities.

Key facts:

⊗ in 2017, people aged over 60 years old represented 962 million people, which was twice as many as in 1980

⊗ 1 in 2 disabled people cannot afford treatment

⊗ People with disabilities have a more fragile general health

⊗ Disability increases dependency and limits participation in society

⊗ the poverty rate is higher for people with disabilities.

In conclusion

As we can see, disability comes in many different forms and is progressing all over the world. While some disabilities are temporary, others, on the other hand, affect the everyday actions of people in the long term.

Getting to know more about disabled people is getting to know more than 2 billion citizens of the world who are longing for one thing: a more accessible world!



The International Year of Disabled Persons 1981″

2030 Development Agenda



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