International Day of People with Disability

Today is the International Day of People with Disability. The theme for 2021 is Not All Disabilities are Visible.

People with disabilities often have less access to healthcare and other services. During the pandemic, we saw this even more clearly. Now, as we begin to emerge from the pandemic, we have an opportunity to work toward equity for people with differing abilities. 

Civil rights for people with disabilities

An estimated 15 percent of all the people in the world have a disability. Some 47% of people over age 65 are in this group. 

In 1973, the first civil rights law for people with disabilities was signed. This was Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, which says, ““no otherwise qualified handicapped individual in the United States shall solely on the basis of his handicap, be excluded from the participation, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity receiving federal financial assistance.” 

This was the first legal recognition of the need to stop discrimination against people with disabilities.

It was a good start, but since it was a completely new law, based on earlier laws forbidding discrimination against women and people of color, it needed some work. For example, the courts originally decided that a bus line was not discriminating against people with disabilities if they stopped the bus and opened the doors, even if the bus was not accessible to the person waiting.

In 1990, President George Bush signed the Americans with Disabilities Act, which protects equal opportunities for individuals with disabilities. 

Not All Disabilities are Visible

This year, the International Day of People with Disabilities is also for increasing awareness of invisible disabilities. 

Sometimes an invisible disability is a matter of neurodiversity. Examples include

  • ADHD 
  • Autism 
  • Dyspraxia 
  • Dyslexia 
  • Dyscalculia 
  • Dysgraphia 
  • Tourette’s Syndrome 

When we educate ourselves about these conditions, we can become more aware of the kinds of obstacles people with a neurological disability face, and the kinds of accommodations we can make. 

Take this opportunity to become more aware of disabilities.

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