This year’s theme, is: Achieving 17 Goals for the Future We Want.

According to the United Nations (UN), within our world population of around seven billion people, live more than a billion disabled people, or roughly speaking 15%. The UN (since 1992) has promoted a day of observance and understanding of disability issues.

With around 80% of the World’s disabled population living in developing countries, the real challenge is often one of awareness, in terms of making possible opportunities for people impacted by disability. The International Day of Persons with Disabilities (IDPD) has been celebrated annually on 3 December around the World in response to this and other challenges.

Crucially the theme for IDPD, 2016 isn’t altogether disability specific. “Achieving 17 Goals for the Future We Want” refers to the wider world’s population and honours the recent adoption of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). By highlighting the SDGs on this particular day, the UN is showcasing the role of these goals in building a more inclusive and equitable world for persons with disabilities (as part, rather than separated from the world community). Indeed, Secretary-General, Ban Ki-Moon underlined this notion, saying: “We mark this year’s International Day of Persons with Disabilities in the wake of the adoption of the ambitious 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.  This global blueprint for action summons us to ‘leave no one behind’.”

Although the UK is certainly on an upward curve in its understanding, the UN recognises that disabled people are still “the World’s largest minority”, and sadly are likely to have generally poorer health, lower education achievements, fewer economic opportunities and higher rates of poverty than people without disabilities.

This links in with the 17 Sustainable Development Goals which point to efforts towards reducing poverty and improving standards of living and in this sense, disabled people, as all others deserve the opportunity to benefit. The UN views disabled people as being especially denied a lack of appropriate services, such as basics including information and communications technology (ICT), justice or transportation among others – and within those broad headings, taking the form of obstacles relating to the physical environment, or those resulting from legislation or policy, or from societal attitudes or discrimination.

In 2016 the observance of the IDPD coincides with the tenth anniversary of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD). This was one of the most widely effected treaties that the UN has ever organised and has been ratified by nations from around the World (though not by all). 2016 is an opportunity for the UN to assess its current status, especially as it relates to sustainable world development.

For disabled people in the UK, IDPD is also a moment to pause and reflect on the opportunities they have but also to continue to build it, by asking questions of government, businesses and of each other as well as aiming to become role models, in our own small ways.