International Day of Persons with Disabilities (IDPD) has been observed since 1992 to “promote action to raise awareness about disability issues and draw attention to the benefits of an inclusive and accessible society for all.”
Every year, IDPD has a theme set by the UN. This year, the theme is “Achieving the 17 Goals for the Future We Want”- noting the recent adoption of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the role of these goals in building a more inclusive and equitable world for people with disabilities. The SDGs are a set of targets most countries around the world, including New Zealand, have agreed to achieve by 2030.
To celebrate IDPD, the Human Rights Commission held a breakfast at Parliament, co-hosted with Minister Nicky Wagner, Minister for Disability Issues. The theme of the breakfast was “leave no one behind”; a phrase used in the SDGs. It was an opportunity for a range of decision-makers, including MPs, government officials, and the Offices of the Ombudsman and Children’s Commissioner, to celebrate the untapped potential of the almost 1 in 4 Kiwis who identify as having a disability and to discuss how they could ensure none of them are left behind.
A highlight of the breakfast was hearing incoming member of the UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, Robert Martin, speak. Robert spoke powerfully of his experience of growing up in institutions, segregated from society, where he and others were left on the back foot right from the start. Through no fault of their own, they were left behind.
Robert went to discuss what he envisaged the future looking like for people with disabilities: a world where people with disabilities, including learning and psychosocial disabilities, are given equal opportunities, a world where people with disabilities are valued for their skills and abilities. Put simply, a world where no one is left behind.
I echo Robert’s call to action. Adequately investing in, and working with, people with disabilities, ensuring that systems fit around people rather than the other way around, and giving people with disabilities the right support at the right time is not only good for people with disabilities, but society as a whole. Leaving no one behind makes our schools, workplaces, and overall economy stronger. It makes us as New Zealanders stronger and, while our event was targeted at decision-makers, we all have an important role to play in making sure it happens.
IDPD 2016 coincides with the 10-year anniversary of the adoption of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, and is therefore a good time to take stock of how far we have come and how much further we have to go. Events celebrating IDPD 2016 will no doubt celebrate the progress that has been made over the last decade and lay down the challenge for the next. The SDG target of 2030 gives us fourteen years to achieve them for the future we want for people with disabilities; a future in which no one is left behind.