Susan Sherrard reflects as we celebrate the International Day of Persons with Disabilities.

The United Nations International Day of Persons with Disabilities is observed around the world on 3 December each year.

New Zealand ratified the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in 2008. So this year we celebrate a decade of guaranteeing disabled people’s rights as citizens of Aotearoa New Zealand.

The theme for this year's day is "Empowering persons with disabilities and ensuring inclusiveness and equality." Unfortunately, we are still aiming for inclusion and equity - we haven’t got there yet. Disabled people are under employed, often live in poverty, have low educational expectations placed on them, struggle to use public transport and to find accessible housing.
 
Yet, 3 December each year evokes in many disabled people a feeling of pride. By having common experiences, that are different to non-disabled people, we can choose to bond, share our stories and have a voice or perspective. We can choose to include being disabled as part of our identity. Society’s exclusions, imposed on us, ironically bring us together and we own our disabled status.
 
On 3 Dec we have the opportunity to reflect on ourselves and our practice. With the theme of inclusion, we can ask ourselves, "How am I including disabled people in my community, in my whānau, and in my work. What am I doing to empower disabled people? Am I looking for opportunities to level the playing field so that disabled people can succeed and be part of my community, my whānau and my work?”
 
Our Let’s get real: Disability framework gives us the fundamental values and attitudes that when demonstrated result in the inclusion of disabled people. 

Being of service and delivering excellent services is our challenge. Celebrating the International Day of Persons with Disabilities gives us an opportunity to actively reflect on our practice and change it if need be. 

We can create an inclusive society.