Since 1992, every year on December 3rd, we celebrate the International Day for Persons with Disabilities to promote and raise awareness of the rights of persons with disabilities.
I have heard some people say that this is a work that should be done daily and that, as such, having one specific day to mark it becomes counterproductive. Although I understand where those comments are coming from -in the sense that the struggle for inclusion is never-ending-, I believe the observance of this day helps us draw international attention to our situation and brings a new opportunity to advance our rights.
As a person with a disability and a disability rights advocate, I would like to take this opportunity to focus on the promotion of the participation of persons with disabilities and to give four practical tips on how to achieve inclusive participation:
1. If you are planning a participatory event and you wish to include persons with disabilities, you need to first know where we are.
You need to take into account that there are all types and degrees of disabilities, including those that are “invisible”, so it is not enough to just take a look around you. A good idea might be to contact NGOs, organizations of persons with disabilities and local governments and institutions, which can help you find us. We are out there and we want to be included!
2. You need to bear in mind that inviting us to participate, including us in an invitation, is not the same as being inclusive. Being inclusive is a broad quality, which also involves aspects that are not so frequently discussed, such as adopting an inclusive communication strategy.
In practical terms, this might mean hiring sign language interpreters and providing braille and easy-read versions of documents.
3. This you probably know, but I cannot stress it enough: you need to make sure that whatever participatory event you are planning is also physically accessible for persons with disabilities. Check your entrances, ramps and toilets to make sure everyone can use them safely.
4. Be open to dialogue and listen to us. We are here and we have a lot to say. We were here before, we have always been. If we did not participate, it was because some of the points stated above went unmet, but we are making sure that it does not happen again.
Let’s celebrate the International Day for Persons with Disabilities. Let’s keep working for a world that is more inclusive of us all.
Since you are here, we thought you may also be interested in other articles about inclusion and diversity, like this one: Persons with Disabilities: The power of finding your voice