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International Day of Persons with Disabilities

Preparing this blog has been a personal learning journey for me. I have friends who are disabled and to be honest, I rarely notice their disabilities – they are friends and neighbours, part of my local community, known to me by their name. Now, this is a positive thing, I believe. However, it is also a negative thing, because it blinded me to another side of their lives and the wealth of knowledge, insights and expertise that we had never shared. Then when I needed to prepare this blog, I turned to them for help. They responded very generously and I am indebted to them for that. It’s not too much to say that my relationship with my friends is now very much more respectful.

The annual observance of the International Day of Disabled Persons was proclaimed in 1992, by the United Nations General Assembly resolution 47/3. The observance of the Day aims to promote an understanding of disability issues and mobilise 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.

  • Of the one billion population of persons with disabilities, 80% live in developing countries.
  • An estimated 46% of older people aged 60 years and over are people with disabilities.
  • 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.
  • Persons with disabilities in the world are among the hardest hit by COVID-19.

In Scottish politics, respect is due to the work of Pam Duncan-Clancy, a woman with disabilities and newly elected to the Scottish Parliament for her motion. On 2nd December, the Parliament will recognise, “3 December 2021 is the UN international day of disabled people, notes that this has taken place annually since 1992 to promote the rights and wellbeing of disabled people in all spheres of society and development and to increase awareness of the situation of disabled people in every aspect of political, social, economic and cultural life; acknowledges that not all disabilities are visible; notes the view that there is a need to highlight unseen impairments, such as mental ill health, chronic pain and fatigue and to promote inclusion in life and in the workplace; understands that one in five people in Scotland are disabled; acknowledges the view that disabled people’s rights are human rights and that everyone must work together to promote, protect and full these to support disabled people to realise their human rights, and celebrates the work of the disability movement and its allies in the campaigns that they have won, and are yet to win.”

However, in the real world where countries have already ratified UNCRDP, both UK and Scottish Governments are currently in breach of the, UNCRPD, and the Equality & Human Rights Act of 2010. Accordingly, the National Federation of the Blind in the UK (NFBUK), are campaigning to ‘END 100 YEARS OF POST CODE LOTTERY’. The experience of blind people is highly variable within the country. For example; Ian is from one local authority area and has lived with sight loss for several years.  He has always been independent in getting around, but in recent years his sight has deteriorated. He has now waited for over a year for long cane training, as his local Council has a backlog of people waiting for sensory impairment training and their sensory team only consists of 1.5 members. This situation has severely affected Ian’s mental health. Contrast this with the neighbouring Council, who have a Sensory Training team of 6 staff. There is a need for a national framework for support services.

The global crisis of COVID-19 is deepening pre-existing inequalities, exposing the extent of exclusion and highlighting that work on disability inclusion is imperative. As mobility-disabled people try to rebuild their confidence post Covid, they need to re-mobilise and get out and about. Their local streetscape is often a barrier with dangerously uneven pavements, road ‘improvements’ that neglect to sweeten surfaces between pavement and road, and badly installed tactile markers.

The following online events are being organised on 3 December 2021 by the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (Disability) :


We in SIGBI should lead by example and apply the three A’s of AWARENESS, ADVOCACY and ACTION to raise the standards and performance on disability inclusion in our organisation so that we are a truly representative organisation.

Margaret Whitelaw
SI Kirkintilloch and District