The annual observance of the International Day of Persons with Disabilities was proclaimed in 1992, by the United Nations General Assembly resolution 47/3. It aims to promote the rights and well-being of persons with disabilities in all spheres of society and development, and to increase awareness of the situation of persons with disabilities in every aspect of political, social, economic and cultural life.
Anne Wafula Strike MBE for Services to Disability sport and charity, a Paralympian, UKA Board Member and an Ambassador for disability shares her story and why International Day for persons with disabilities is important…
“I contracted polio at the age of 2½ years in my native country of Kenya. Unfortunately, in countries such as Kenya people with disabilities can become outcasts in society which causes the negative stigma, but I was lucky to have a supportive family who treated me no other way, just Anne. My father believed in education and he put me through school and university where I achieved a degree in teaching. I enjoyed staying fit and eating healthy, but recall watching the Commonwealth Games in 2002 after the birth of my son, where I was fascinated by seeing athletes competing in wheelchairs, but it never dawned on me to take up athletics, until after I had my son and I was approached by a coach at Harlow Athletics Club (Terry Martin). The rest is history!”
Why is International Day of Persons with Disabilities important?
“About one billion people living with disabilities worldwide face many barriers to inclusion in many key aspects of society, which includes areas of transportation, employment, and education as well as social and political participation.
“This day is important because it's a reminder that people with disabilities want access to the same rights and opportunities as everybody - disability rights are human rights.”
Are we making progress with disability both in sport and society?
“I’m proud to say that Athletics is making great strides towards change for people with disabilities. Being a Champion for the UKAbility project which is addressing accessibility in three areas; spectator experience, recruitment and club accessibility. We are looking at ourselves and exploring ways to be better. Sport is a universal language, so if we can lead the way, sectors such as transport will follow – there are simple changes that can be implemented to ensure inclusion is exercised.”
You are an ambassador for disability, what is the top of your list to make change?
“Accessibility – we need to have a stepping stone, inclusion cannot happen without putting things in place. Accessibility is not a tick box exercise - Diversity is being invited to the party; inclusion is being asked to dance. We must stamp out disability discrimination and I am a vehicle to amplify this message by focusing on things we can do and not the things we can’t.”
This year’s theme focuses on empowering persons with disabilities and ensuring inclusiveness and equality as part of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The 2030 Agenda pledges to “leave no one behind”. Persons with disabilities, as both beneficiaries and agents of change, can fast track the process towards inclusive and sustainable development and promote resilient society for all, including in the context of disaster risk reduction and humanitarian action, and urban development. Governments, persons with disabilities and their representative organisations, academic institutions and the private sector need to work as a “team” to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).