Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Taking action on disability - could do better

I very much welcome International Day of Disabled People, taking place on December 3as an opportunity to mobilise action within the North Down community to achieve full and equal participation in society by those with disabilities.

I feel that this day is an excellent opportunity to flag up and promote an understanding of disability issues, the rights of persons with disabilities, and the gains to be made from the integration of persons with disabilities in every aspect of their communities.

While globally almost one in ten people is a person living with a disability, Northern Ireland has a higher percentage of disabled people than anywhere else in the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland – more than one in five of the population.

Disabled people are amongst the most marginalised in our society, many of whom continue to face barriers to their participation in their communities and often stigma and discrimination,” Cllr Smith said.

Traditionally disabled people are expected to see their impairment as their problem, something they will have to make the best of and accept that there are many things they cannot do. That is the past and I look forward to a future where everyone is equal . It is essential that we continue to work towards a shift in attitudes - in many instances we have a society which erects barriers that prevent those with a disability participating and restricts their opportunities. I work with a number of groups within North Down and have the greatest respect for what they have achieved to date which has been through their hard work and perservance. I recognise and welcome that in many areas we as a community have made some strides for example, buildings being adopted to be wheelchair friendly, step down buses, footpaths lowered, shopping centres and shops giving easier access, toilets more readily available. However, we still have a long way to go in providing equality and dignity for all of those who have a disability.

International Day of Disabled People (IDDP), adopted by the United Nations to raise awareness of the inequalities experienced by people with impairments, has been celebrated world-wide since December 3, 1981.