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On the twentieth International Day of Persons with Disabilities, a call to remove the barriers that prevent equal participation in society

By Gopal Mitra

NEW YORK, United States of America, 3 December 2012 – Today is the twentieth International Day of Persons with Disabilities. Today, we call attention to the importance of promoting the rights of persons with disabilities and mobilizing support to build a more inclusive society.

© UNICEF Video
(captioned for the hearing impaired). UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake urges the world to do more and to take inspiration from the millions of children who face barriers most of us have never known.  Watch in RealPlayer


The theme of this year’s International Day of Persons with Disabilities is ‘Removing barriers to create an inclusive and accessible society for all’. UNICEF is asking partners to join efforts to make the theme a reality.

Removing barriers

People with disabilities remain one of the largest overlooked minorities in the world. Over one billion people – approximately 15 per cent of the world’s population – live with some form of disability. Included are some 93 million children aged 0–14 with disabilities who face discrimination in every aspect of their lives.

Abakar Mahamat, 4, has been paralyzed by polio. The Notre-Dame de Paix rehabilitation centre in Moundou, Logone Region, Chad, provides custom-made braces, crutches and other treatment for children with physical disabilities, with support from international doctors who visit the health facility several times each year.

Barriers for children with disabilities and their families exist in different forms, including in negative attitudes, policies and legislation that discriminate and are not inclusive, or in physical environments that are not accessible.

Whether barriers block acceptance in school or on the playground, access to health services, basic nutrition or inclusion in emergency response, children with disabilities encounter them on a daily basis. They are prevented from participating equally in society.

The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which came into force in 2008, recognizes that these barriers are often more disabling than an individual’s impairment, itself.

“Imagine a world where all children are included…involved,” says UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake. “Where their talents are celebrated…where their contributions are recognized. Where they count. That is the world towards which UNICEF is working.”

A child reads Braille in a class at Gulu primary school’s special needs unit, Gulu, northern Uganda. Through the district, UNICEF supports the school with financial assistance and teacher training.

An accessible, barrier-free environment is the first step towards fulfilling the rights of children and people with disabilities. Let’s make it happen.

Creating a difference

UNICEF is working around the world in partnership with governments, donors, other United Nations agencies, civil society organizations and organizations of persons with disabilities towards creating an inclusive and accessible society for children with disabilities. UNICEF believes that an inclusive society will benefit not only children and adults with disabilities, but also the entire population.

For a glimpse of how UNICEF is creating a difference for children with disabilities in different countries, please visit:

Promoting education of children with disabilities in inclusive settings in Rwanda

Including voices of children with disabilities in South Sudan

Changing perceptions on disability through campaigning in Montenegro

Playing a key role in mine action programme in Sri Lanka

Supporting development of inclusive policy in Cambodia

Towards inclusion in the Pacific Islands

New orientation for UNICEF staff and partners

Today, UNICEF released the first orientation video for staff and partners on disability. It has been developed to raise awareness and understanding about the situation of children with disabilities and support greater inclusion throughout UNICEF’s policies and programmes.

The video also provides examples of UNICEF’s work on the rights of children with disabilities.

For more information, click here.




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