UNESCO will mark the International Day of Persons with Disabilities with a week-long programme from 25 November to 3 December 2020 under the theme: “Building back better: towards an inclusive, accessible and sustainable post Covid-19 world by, for and with persons with disabilities”.

International Day of Persons with Disabilities (IDPD), to give it its full, official title is marked on 3 December. 

IDPD is usually an opportunity to celebrate the underreported achievements and contributions of disabled people. But this year, while that aspect shouldn’t be overlooked, things are very different.

This year, has of course, has been dominated by the coronavirus pandemic that has been particularly difficult for disabled people. In the UK, disabled people have been supported, for example, by government schemes including access to NHS volunteers and food parcels during periods of shielding. At the same time, however, according to figures published in September by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) disabled people made up six in every 10 (59.5%) Covid-19 related deaths for the period to July 2020 with numbers of fatalities at that point over 27,000. If that weren’t a grave enough indictment of the management of the situation, consider that disabled people account for around 20% of the UK population – and the severity of how the pandemic has hit the disability community really starts to reveal itself.

Every day is new and an opportunity to ‘build back better’. IDPD is a moment when we need to have proper conversations about health and social inequalities that have always existed – but that have been widened by Covid-19.

The UN strikes an optimistic tone regarding the global perspective (the UK is still a leader among disability confidence) stating: “Disability inclusion is an essential condition to upholding human rights, sustainable development, and peace and security. It is also central to the promise of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development to leave no one behind. The commitment to realising the rights of persons with disabilities is not only a matter of justice; it is an investment in a common future.

Disability inclusion will result in a Covid-19 response and recovery that better serves everyone, more fully suppressing the virus, as well as building back better. It will provide for more agile systems capable of responding to complex situations, reaching the furthest behind first.”