‘World Disability Day: Let’s celebrate the courage of disabled persons!!’

"World Disability Day is our Diwali, Christmas, Id & Holi ….all combined into one!" - Disability Activist, 3rd December 2002, Delhi

Dr. Smriti Sharma Bhatia,
Miranda House, University of Delhi-11007

The ‘International Day of Persons with Disabilities’ earlier known as the International Day of Disabled Persons/World Disability Day is celebrated every year on 3rd December since 1992. It was declared by the United Nations and is promoted by UN since then. The idea of this day is to consistently make efforts all over the world to improve the condition of persons with disabilities. We should remember that disability day is not only concerned with mental or physical incapacities, but with all kind of disability ranging from mental or genetic disorders like autism and Down’s syndrome to neurological problems like Multiple Sclerosis.

Way back in 1976 United Nations General Assembly made the decision that 1981 should be the International Year of Disabled Persons. The decade between 1983 and 1992 was later proclaimed the United Nations Decade of Disabled Persons.

If we consider the case of India, there are over 70 million people with disabilities who have very few opportunities and prospects coming their way. In this background, it becomes imperative that there should be some awareness about the issues faced by the disabled community. So, the celebration of a day like this is very important because it brings to forefront the concerns and problems of persons with disability.

In India, National Centre for Promotion of Employment for Disabled People (NCPEDP) has been celebrating the World Disability Day each year. Thousands of disabled people, their friends, families, disabled peoples organisations, corporate houses, civil society organisations, media groups and also political representatives assemble to celebrate this day. Numerous meetings, symposiums, workshops and demonstrations are organised to commemorate the day. Every year, a common theme is decided beforehand which is related to issues that are significant for disabled persons. Afterwards, the whole celebration revolves around that theme. The theme for International Day of People with Disability for 2019 is ‘Promoting the participation of persons with disabilities and their leadership: taking action on the 2030 Development Agenda’. Last year’s (2018) theme was ‘Empowering persons with disabilities and ensuring inclusiveness and equality’ for an inclusive, equitable and sustainable development as part of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The 2030 Agenda pledges to “leave no one behind”.

Following themes are the year wise themes of the international day of disabled personscelebrationsare listed below:

  • The theme of 2017 was “Transformation towards sustainable and resilient society for all”.
  • The theme of 2016 was “Achieving 17 Goals for the Future We Want”.
  • The theme of the year 2015 was “Inclusion matters: access and empowerment for people of all abilities”.
  • The theme of the year 2014 was “Sustainable Development: The Promise of Technology”.
  • The theme of the year 2013 was “Break Barriers, Open Doors: for an inclusive society and development for all”.
  • The theme of the year 2012 was the “Removing barriers to create an inclusive and accessible society for all”.
  • The theme of the year 2011 was the “Together for a better world for all: Including persons with disabilities in development”.
  • The theme of the year 2010 was the “Keeping the promise: Mainstreaming disability in the Millennium Development Goals towards 2015 and beyond”.
  • The theme of the year 2009 was the “Making the MDGs Inclusive: Empowerment of persons with disabilities and their communities around the world”.

The celebrations help to raise awareness and is a forum to debate and discuss the achievements of the disability sector. Future roadmap is deliberated on and crystallized. All the stakeholders share ideas and solutions to ensure inclusion of people with disabilities in all future changes and plans adopted by governments and the private sector. The celebrations conclude with a short 'Walk to Freedom', in which all the stakeholders participate and is symbolic of the dignity and perseverance of persons with disabilities. Also an important point to note is that these discussions related to disability sometimes lead to changes in policies at the government level.


A one-day event will take place at UN Headquarters, on 3rd December 2019. Following the official launch of the IDPD (International Day of Disabled Persons), there will be a panel discussion on new initiatives for disability inclusion, as well as spotlight event, ‘Sport for all for peace and development’. Here in India, the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment has announced the list of National Awardees for Empowerment of PwDs 2019 and will be conferred on 3rd December, 2019.Some of the awardees are Ms. J.P. Akila, Dr. I.V. Srinivasa Reddy, Ms. Baby Girija, Shri Balan Pootheri, Shri Aadhar Singh Chouhan and Ms. Priyanka Devi. Their ability, perseverance and courage is to be applauded and we can learn from their undying spirit.

“I choose not to place ‘DIS’, in my ability.” ― Robert M. Hensel


  1. ourcivilsociety.com
  2. Data from the website of National Centre for Promotion of Employment for Disabled People (NCPEDP)
  3. United nations website
  4. org/en/observances/day-of-persons-with-disabilities
  5. https://www.idpwd.com.au/about/