Holy I feel old! In honour of International Day of Persons with Disabilities 2020, I can’t believe it’s been forty-five years since my injury, thirty-three years since Rick Hansen completed his history making – the Man In Motion World Tour. Thirty years since the Americans with Disabilities Act became law in the US., and twenty-eight years that the United Nations first recognized the International Day for Persons with Disabilities.
In Canada, it is estimated that between 15 to 20% of the population has a disability – a market larger than any other minority group in the country. With that each year on December 3rd, the day (IDPD), is meant to promote the rights and well-being of persons with disabilities in all aspects of society and development, as well as to increase awareness of persons with disabilities in political, social, economic, and cultural life.
In keeping with the education, awareness, and advancements that have been made since IDPD was formalized, for many individuals and families, today’s modern cities and towns may be convenient and fascinating places for working and living, offering a great variety of opportunities and experiences. But for many individuals with disabilities, still to this day such built environments are full of uncertainties, anxieties and dangers.
So we have to ask ourselves why is accessibility so important for people with disabilities. For a person with limited mobility, vision or hearing, the physical environment can either enhance or limit their independence. People with disabilities encounter many barriers that prevent them from moving about freely, independently and safely. For individuals who use wheelchairs or other mobility devices, steps, stairs and doors may be obstacles. People who are blind and/or visually impaired are endangered by the absence of directional and safety features, that can be heard, felt, and/or touched. Many office buildings, community centres, parks and places of worship just to name a few have not been fully designed to welcome users with a variety of disabilities. In addition, public transportation systems, too are often not user-friendly to persons with disabilities.
When it comes to diversity and inclusion, people with disabilities have almost gone unnoticed. When in fact, people with disabilities are CEO’s, politicians, homemakers, athletes, physicians, parents and children. They are also consumers in need of housing, food, entertainment, recreation, clothing, financial services and travel.
Faced with these situations, the continuous education and awareness activities under the umbrella of IDPD, many organizations, companies and individuals are working towards “barrier-free” and/or “universal design”. These concepts and principles are a way of thinking that strives to design buildings, products or environments to make them accessible to all people, regardless of age, ability, disability or other characteristics.
So with each year that we celebrate IDPD, many more facilities, services, and companies are making progress in meeting the needs of persons with disabilities. However, more work and ideas are required. Consequently, ongoing education is critical in order to effectively discuss the concepts and philosophies of community inclusion and diversity. Keep up the good work!!