The annual observance of the International Day of Persons with Disabilities, aims to promote an understanding of disability issues and mobilize support for the dignity, rights and well-being of persons with disabilities. It also seeks to increase awareness of gains to be derived from the integration of persons with disabilities in every aspect of political, social, economic and cultural life.
This year, Wednesday December 3, 2014, International Day of Persons with Disabilities will focus on the role of technology as a way to break down barriers for people with disability and how devices are becoming faster, cheaper and more accessible. According to the United Nations, the key roles of technology include:
- Disaster risk reduction and emergency responses — technology (especially social media) is changing the way we respond to crises and it is important to involve people with disability in planning and responses
- Creating enabling working environment — technology is an important enabler and assistive supports can be the difference between can and cannot
- Disability-inclusive sustainable development goals — for more information on the UN sustainable development goals, see the sustainable development knowledge platform.
For more information on how the day can be observed, go to the United Nations Enable website.
Thus far, in Canada, Ontario has implemented the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act and Regulations to make Ontario accessible in the areas of employment, customer service, information and communications, transportation and the built-environment; Manitoba has passed into law the Accessibility for Manitobans Act and is still working on the Regulations to implement accessibility standards in similar areas. Public consultations to help develop Nova Scotia’s first accessibility legislation in the spring of 2016 began November 13, 2014. British Columbia has taken the first steps toward introducing a new regime to support persons with disabilities, along the lines of recent changes in Ontario and Manitoba. Moreover, BC intends to make the province accessible by 2024. Saskatchewan is aiming to join Manitoba and Ontario with a comprehensive strategy to engage and integrate the province’s persons with disabilities in society and empower them to participate and contribute to the best of their abilities. The Newfoundland and Labrador government has decided to launch a consultation to develop a strategy for the inclusion of persons with disabilities. The consultation will focus on how best to remove existing barriers and prevent new ones, and how to address these issues.
While much has been achieved in Canada much remains to be done. A lot more needs to be done to make this a national standard including the removal of barriers in new communication technologies so that persons with disabilities can live in a truly inclusive and accessible Canada.