RIHR - Signal

International Day of Persons with Disabilities

In a year marked by the COVID-19 pandemic and its effects on humanity, the celebration of the International Day of Persons with Disabilities aims to draw attention to the risks faced by persons with disabilities and the necessity to find solutions to their urgent needs, as well as to the importance of encouraging an inclusive culture that enables persons with disabilities to enjoy their fundamental right to participate fully in the political, economic, social and cultural life of the society in which they live.


Secretary-General’s Message

The COVID-19 pandemic has affected communities and societies at their very core, deepening pre-existing inequalities.

Even under normal circumstances, the one billion persons living with disabilities worldwide are less likely to enjoy access to education, healthcare and livelihoods or to participate and be included in the community.

They are more likely to live in poverty and experience higher rates of violence, neglect and abuse

And when crises such as COVID-19 grip communities, persons with disabilities are among the worst affected.

Promoting inclusion for persons with disabilities means recognizing and protecting their rights.

These rights touch on every aspect of life: the right to go to school, to live in one’s community, to access health care, to start a family, to engage in political participation, to be able to play sport, to travel -- and to have decent work. 

As the world recovers from the pandemic, we must ensure that the aspirations and rights of persons with disabilities are included and accounted for in a -inclusive, accessible and sustainable post COVID-19 world.

This vision will only be achieved through active consultation with persons with disabilities and their representative organizations.

On this International Day of Persons with Disabilities, let us all commit to work together to tackle the obstacles, injustices and discrimination that persons with disabilities experience.

António Guterres



Director-General of UNESCO

As we all now know, the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic has had devastating consequences which have disproportionately affected people living with any kind of disability. The dearth of appropriate solutions has, in fact, exacerbated the COVID-19 crisis.

For example, there has been a lack of information accessible to all, available in Braille or in sign language. When we assess all the consequences, it is clear that this issue, already crucial, has now become essentially important in the context of the sanitary crisis.

The future of children and young people with disabilities risks being adversely affected by the ongoing crisis in education and by school closures. This is because the most vulnerable are often at the highest risk of experiencing a disruption of their education and of suffering from the distancing measures in effect. Moreover, distance learning methods have not been developed with their specific needs in mind.

Faced with this unprecedented situation, it is crucial to involve people with disabilities in the devising of solutions that are truly aimed at everyone and to learn from the experience.

In general, all forms of disability need to be better factored into education. This can be achieved by developing digital resources and skills aimed at fostering inclusion, by training teachers in the principles of accessible education for all, and by creating accessible tools adapted to different learning needs. This is crucial not only for students with disabilities, but also for their classmates. All students benefit from a more inclusive education.

Access to education, like access to other common goods, must become universal. It is a question of fairness and respect of fundamental human rights.

We cannot allow persons with disabilities to be deprived of their fundamental right to participate fully in the political, economic, social and cultural life of the societies where they live.

The essential framework for the fight against this type of discrimination is set out in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

We now must find the means to achieve the goals of the Convention by mobilizing the formidable resources at our disposal – science and technology in particular – to meet the specific needs of people, whatever their disability. In order to achieve lasting inclusion, people with disabilities must be able to apply their skills and abilities, and play a full part in the development of solutions.

On this International Day of Persons with Disabilities, I call on the entire international community to mobilize so that persons with disabilities may actively contribute to the response to the crisis and to the generation of new possibilities.

The pandemic has also created a unique opportunity to highlight these fundamental issues and to make decisive progress. Together, let us seize this opportunity and take more concrete steps towards building a more inclusive society which respects difference and human dignity.

Audrey Azoulay

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