The International Day of Persons with Disabilities, also called the International Day of People with Disabilities by some organizations, was proclaimed by the United Nations in 1992. Held on December 3, it aims to " promote the full and equal participation of persons with disabilities and to take action for the inclusion of persons with disabilities in all aspects of society and development." (UN, 2020). Each year has a different theme. This year's is Building Back Better: Toward a Disability-inclusive, Accessible and Sustainable Post COVID-19 World.
During the 19th century advances and trust in medicine, combined with the industrial revolution, an environment was created that would lead to the segregation of people with disabilities in Canada. Along with the establishment of various government institutions at this time it fostered "the establishment of residential institutions, including psychiatric hospitals, schools for the blind, Houses of Refuge and church-run homes, which collectively housed large numbers of people with mental health issues, intellectual disabilities and physical disabilities". (Galer, 2015)
As we now know, segregation and institutionalization of any population marginalizes and disenfranchises them.
It wasn't until the end of World War I when so many veterans returned home with disabilities that circumstances slowly started to change. Organizations like the War Amps, advocating for disabled veterans, were founded.
It wouldn't be until after World War II allying with the veterans disability movement and associated organizations, as well as the rising civil rights movement, that change for other disability groups started to gain momentum.
Milestones in the Disability Rights Movement (this list isn't intended to be exhaustive):
The 1980's recession proved a set-back as governments cut back on many initiatives. This time period also saw the rise of disability studies in universities and colleges.
Disability rights demonstration, Ottawa
Galer, D. (2015). Disability rights movement in Canada. In The Canadian Encyclopedia. https://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/disability-rights-movement
Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission. (n.d.). Milestones in human rights in Nova Scotia. https://humanrights.novascotia.ca/about/milestones-human-rights-nova-scotia
Barrier - Anything that hinders or challenges the full and effective participation in society. Barriers can be physical, attitudinal, technological, or systemic (policy or practice). Accessibility barriers may be related to areas such as employment, education, the built environment, transportation, the delivery and receipt of goods and services, or information and communications.
Culturally Responsive Pedagogy - teaching that recognizes all students learn differently and that these differences may be connected to background, language, family structure and social or cultural identity.
Equity - Fair treatment of individuals by acknowledging and making provisions for their differences by ensuring that employment and educational processes are free from systemic barriers. Equity does not mean ignoring differences and treating everyone the same. Instead, it means recognizing and valuing differences, removing systemic barriers and accommodating individual differences, as needed.
First Voice - First voice perspectives generally refer to the knowledge generated by persons with disabilities and others who experience barriers to accessibility that emerges from lived experience, community connections, knowledge traditions, and scholarly activities that are typically under-valued and under-represented.
Meaningful Access - anticipates the needs of citizens of all ages, life stages, and abilities and enables personal independence, intergenerational living and human diversity.
Neurodivergent - means having a brain that functions in ways that diverge significantly from the dominant societal standards of “normal”. It recognizes diverse neurologies and ways of being, as variation of human experience, rather than deficiency in need of remediation or cure. It includes those who identify with autism spectrum disorder, ADHD, Tourette’s syndrome, and dyslexia, to name a few.
Universal Design - is the design and composition of an environment so that it can be accessed, understood and used to the greatest extent possible by all people regardless of their age, size, ability or disability. An environment (or any building, product, or service in that environment) should be designed to meet the needs of all people who wish to use it. This is not a special requirement, for the benefit of only a minority of the population. It is a fundamental condition of good design. If an environment is accessible, usable, convenient and a pleasure to use, everyone benefits. By considering the diverse needs and abilities of all throughout the design process, universal design creates products, services and environments that meet peoples' needs. Simply put, universal design is good design. (Irish Centre for Excellence in Universal Design)
Universal Design for Learning (UDL) - is an educational framework that guides the design of learning goals, assessments, methods and materials, as well as the policies surrounding these curricular elements, with the diversity of learners in mind. NSCC incorporates UDL principles into curriculum design. You can find more information on UDL in the Designing Learning guide.
CAST. (2016). UDL on campus. http://udloncampus.cast.org/home
NSCC. (2019). Educational Equity Policy. https://www.nscc.ca/docs/about-nscc/policies-procedures/educational-equity-policy.pdf
Ontario Ministry of Education. (2013, November). Capacity Building Series, Secretariat Special Edition, (35):1.
Scorgie, K. & Forlin, C. (2019). Promoting Social Inclusion: Co-Creating Environments that Foster Equity and Belonging. p. 153.
Woodward, S. (2017, November 27). How can we move towards meaningful access for all? Rick Hansen Foundation. https://www.rickhansen.com/news-stories/blog/how-can-we-move-towards-meaningful-access-all