Reflecting on the International Day of Persons with Disabilities

by T.D, FCO Placement Student

In November we commemorated the International Day of Persons with Disabilities (IDPD). To provide some historical background on this day, the United Nations General Assembly formally designated December 3 as IDPD in 1992, recognizing the substantial global population living with disabilities—estimated at 1.3 billion, with approximately 80% residing in the Global South (WHO, 2023; UNDRR, n.d.). The overarching objective of IDPD is to generate awareness regarding the unique social, political, policy, and economic challenges confronted by people with disabilities on a daily basis, accentuating the critical need for more comprehensive accessibility solutions. Canada has actively addressed these challenges by pursuing Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), aligning with its 2030 agenda to reduce barriers and promote inclusivity and equity for diverse populations. The SDGs “are a global call to action to address today's most pressing social, economic and environmental challenges…so no one is left behind” (Government of Canada, 2023). In response to a significant deviation below the 2015 baseline, the UN (2023) has officially designated this year's theme as "United in action to rescue and achieve the SDGs for, with, and by persons with disabilities," aiming to rejuvenate and address the observed decline. The thematic emphasis on 'rescue' is more than a rhetorical flourish; it signifies a pressing call to action to address the neglect of SDGs. It underscores the critical need for renewed, collective efforts to foster inclusivity and meet the needs of persons with disabilities on a global scale.

For reference, Canada's official SDGs emphasize the adherence to:

  1. No Poverty (Goal 1): Focusing on poverty reduction and enhancing access to economic opportunities.
  2. Good Health and Well-Being (Goal 3): Improving access to healthcare services.
  3. Quality Education (Goal 4): Breaking down physical, attitudinal, and institutional barriers hindering access to quality education.
  4. Gender Equality (Goal 5): Eliminating discrimination, violence, and limited socio-economic opportunities at the intersections of disability and gender.
  5. Decent Work and Economic Growth (Goal 8): Combating workplace discrimination and enhancing access to employment opportunities.
  6. Reduced Inequalities (Goal 10): Making a systemic commitment to end socio-economic and political discrimination against disabled individuals.
  7. Sustainable Cities and Communities (Goal 11): Lowering barriers to public spaces and transportation to foster equitable inclusion in community life.
  8. Climate Action (Goal 13): Recognizing and addressing the disproportionate impact of climate change, including natural disasters and extreme weather events, on disabled people.

While reigniting focus on the SDGs is typically considered a governmental responsibility, as community members, we can also proactively take initiative to imbue these goals with meaning and integrative possibilities in our personal and professional lives. Demonstrating commitment to the SDGs as community members might involve actively understanding the distinction between accessibility and accommodation and reshaping perceptions of what it genuinely entails to create accessible environments for everyone. Additionally, it could entail participating in IDPD events, such as the Centre for Independent Living in Toronto's (CILT) celebration of IDPD: History and Community Action that took place on December 2. Getting involved in such activities can support you in gaining insights from stakeholders, contributing to a clearer understanding of how to solidify your role in mobilizing action. By acknowledging the dual roles of both government and community in redirecting focus towards Canada's SDGs, we empower ourselves to progress beyond mere acknowledgment. This shift prompts more tangible, impactful actions that ensure the realization of the SDGs' vision for everyone, advancing the pursuit of a more accessible, equitable, and just world.


Government of Canada. (2023, September 1). Canada and the sustainable development goals.

Centre for Independent Living in Toronto. (n.d.). International say of persons with disabilities 2023: History and community action.

United Nations. (2023). 2023 international day of persons with disabilities (IDPD).

UNDRR. (n.d.). The world must act on unacceptable failures to protect persons with disabilities from disasters.

World Health Organization. (2023, March 7). Disability.,earlier%20than%20those%20without%20disabilities.

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