Events and celebrations have kicked off around the country for today’s International Day of People with Disability (IDPWD), with the theme of ‘empowering people with disabilities and ensuring inclusiveness and equality’.
With one in three Australian households (35.9 percent) including a person with disability, the international day, held on 3 December each year, plays an important role in encouraging organisations and society to be more inclusive.
In the week leading up to IDPWD, the Australian Network on Disability (AND) held a cocktail party in Melbourne in recognition of the day and its purpose, with guest panellists Graeme Innes AM and disability activist Carly Findlay advocating for the disability community.
The event, attended by roughly 60 guests discussed how inclusiveness and equality can be achieved and how the intentions of IDPWD can be fulfilled.
Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of AND Suzanne Colbert led the cocktail party discussions, highlighting the need to respect, include and welcome people with disability.
“We sometimes focus on stats and facts, but it’s really about people’s lives,” she says.
“It is a time of historical exclusion; that’s why ensuring people with disability know they’re invited [to the table] is so important.”
“Part of our job in large, complex organisations is to educate people and lift our aspirations about inclusion, so people with disability can get on with their lives.”
Human rights activist Graeme Innes says “inclusion is making whatever you do available to everyone who wants to do it.”
“If you don’t treat us [people with disability] properly now, the largest minority group in the world, you’re going to hear about it – on social media and elsewhere,” he says.
AND is encouraging everyone to get involved in IDPWD to help facilitate change.
“We want to give other organisations ideas about how they can contribute to access and inclusion. We want to spark conversations that could change people’s attitudes and engage them in the importance and relevance of this topic,” Ms Colbert says.
“We want to encourage other organisations to incorporate accessibility and inclusion into their wider business strategies, so they can attract, hire and retain employees with disability.”
“We want to ensure people with disability are valued as social and economic contributors, treated fairly and offered every opportunity to reach their full potential,” she says.
AND will continue its campaigning beyond IDPWD by hosting a free webinar to employees of its member organisations on Wednesday, led by international pioneer in employment of people with disability, Randy Lewis.
Ahead of IDPWD, Special Olympics Australia has called on the Government and Australia’s social leaders to ensure it includes people with intellectual disabilities on the international day.
CEO of Special Olympics Australia Corene Strauss emphasises the need to include people with intellectual disabilities in everyday life, with a child being diagnosed every two hours.
“With over 711,000 Australians living with an intellectual disability, they are the largest disability population in the country,” she says.
Ms Strauss highlights people with intellectual disabilities are often excluded and face challenges with employment, education, health care and social interaction and are best positioned to paint the picture of what really happens among workplaces and within society and how this can be changed.
“People with intellectual disabilities are our teachers of tolerance. They have experienced intolerance, fear and exclusion because of ignorance for too long,” she says.
“Industry need to close the gap between their talk about being inclusive and actually employing people with intellectual disabilities.”
“There must be action and investment from the boardroom table to the dining room table.”
IDPWD is an United Nations sanctioned day, held annually and supported by the Australian Government since 1966.
You’ll find a full list of IDPWD events here.