Express Yourself: Observing International Day of Persons with Disabilities

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By Wally Pearce, Winters Elder Day Council
Special to the Express

Life can be tough for anyone dealing with harsh obstacles. Yet we often think of disabled people as those who beat the odds. This is where we may need a shift in mindset.

Medically, a disability is any condition that makes it more difficult for a person to do certain activities or effectively interact with the world around them. These conditions, or impairments, may be age related, cognitive, developmental, intellectual, mental, physical, sensory, or a combination of multiple factors. Functional impairments may also be present from birth or could be acquired during a person’s lifetime.

Globally, more than one billion people are disabled. In the United States, nearly 50-million individuals are functionally impaired. In America, while it may not seem like much when that number is compared to the more than 330-million American’s, but statistically, it represents about one in five American’s that fall under this functionally described group.

The annual Global observance of the International Day of Disabled Persons was proclaimed in 1992 by the United Nations General Assembly by their Resolution 47/3. The tradition of this day aims to promote an appreciation for disability issues and to also mobilize support for the dignity, independence, rights, productive quality of life, and a well-being of disabled persons.

In 2021, the International Day of Persons with Disabilities is Friday, Dec. 3 and it’s recognized as a day to help everyone become more compassionate and understanding of the challenges faced by the disabled. The theme for 2021 is “Not All Disabilities Are Visible”.

The spirit of the day is to ensure that all people in the world, including local communities like the City of Winters, have equal opportunities for work, play, health, success, and doesn’t discriminate between age, gender, mental, and physical disabilities.

People don’t have to look far to find someone who grapples with the daily challenge disabilities present them. Look around our community and the places we frequent, if accommodations for people with disabilities are not in place, ask the shop owner, business manager and/or our elected officials, to install them.

That disabled parking space in front of a business, the sloped curbs at and sidewalks with the permanent textured slip resistant, yellow-colored mat like material, so vision impaired, and wheelchair-users, can carefully sense the location, the raised, or flush, keypads intended to safely open swing, or sliding doors, automatically, even elevators—all systems are in place to make a difficult life a little easier and safer for a disabled person. Notice these accommodations, and then observe how few of these systems really exist.

Additionally, on Thursday, July 26, 1990, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was signed into law by President George H.W. Bush. The ADA prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities in several areas, including employment, transportation, public accommodations, and access to state and local government programs and services as well as better access to goods, services, and communications. The ADA was created to define the rights of people with disabilities and establish design standards which businesses and municipalities must incorporate to comply with the law. However, what the ADA doesn’t cover are individuals with a minor, nonchronic condition of short duration, such as a sprain, infection, or even a broken limb.

Still, as with racial minorities and women, Congress recognized that legislation was necessary to eradicate discriminatory policies and practices and §504 of the ADA are historic antidiscrimination laws because for the first-time, people with disabilities were viewed as a class – a minority group.

We at the Winters Elder Day Council are honored to celebrate the International Day of Persons with Disabilities for 2021 because it not only aspires to promote the rights and well-being of persons with disabilities in all spheres of our society and development, but it’s also meant to increase awareness of the situation of persons with disabilities in every aspect of political, social, economic, and cultural life.

Obviously, creating a sense of normalcy doesn’t mean pretending one’s limitations don’t exist. Instead, it’s about inclusion. Ideally, this is achieved by creating a society where a person is viewed not through the lens of their disability, but rather for who they are.

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