1 December 2004
This year’s International
Day of Disabled Persons focuses on the goal of full and equal participation by
persons with disabilities in social life and development, which is a central
message of the World Programme of Action concerning
For many years, persons with
disabilities tended to be viewed as “objects” of welfare policies.
Today, as a result of a dramatic shift in perspective that has been
taking place over the past two decades, persons with disabilities have started
to be viewed as people who must enjoy the full spectrum of civil, political,
social, cultural and economic rights. This
process is admittedly slow and uneven, but it is taking place in all parts of
the world. The motto of the
international disability movement, “Nothing About Us
Without Us”, encapsulates the shift.
The right to make one’s own
choices and to participate in all areas of life is figuring prominently in
current efforts to elaborate an international convention on the rights and
dignity of persons with disabilities. Those
efforts are making good progress, and the process itself has seen an
unprecedented degree of engagement by persons with disabilities and their
organizations in international negotiations, bringing their first-hand
experience and expertise to bear on disability issues.
Indeed, it has become
increasingly clear that persons with disabilities are the best experts on how to
remove barriers to their participation, and must be included in the design,
implementation and evaluation of policies and programmes
that affect their lives. Moreover,
no society can claim to be based on justice and equality without persons with
disabilities taking decisions as full-fledged members.
On this observance of the
International Day of Disabled Persons, let us reaffirm our commitment to
fundamental changes in our thinking about the place of persons with disabilities
in society. And let us pledge to
work even harder towards fully inclusive societies.