Policies must change, and rights must be protected, but only by changing the way people perceive and understand disability, can progress become sustainable. Persons with disabilities must lead the fight against traditional ideas and medical interpretations of disability at the root of the barriers and discrimination that they face in their daily lives.

In the past decade, there has been an extraordinary paradigm shift, a change in the way persons with disabilities are perceived. From charity and attempts to “cure” disability, the international community has started to move towards recognizing that social and environmental barriers are the real obstacles for the enjoyment of human rights by persons with disabilities. It is the interaction between a person with an impairment and his or her environment which results in disability, and it is precisely there where discrimination take place, and rights are violated.

Much of what needs to be done requires changing legislation, policies and institutions so that they are inclusive of persons with disabilities and protective of their rights. Beyond this, there is also the imperative to embrace and live diversity through new attitudes and cultural change. Coming together to rethink disability will be necessary to transform the long history of discrimination and segregation of persons with disabilities.
This effort to reshape the way we see and interact with disability is the foundation of all of Catalina’s work as Special Rapporteur. Embracing diversity underpins the initiatives for increased citizenship and socioeconomic participation. Rather than differences being reasons for exclusion, they become what brings us together. Rethinking disability means turning disability into a reason for dignity and pride.

A Day for All is a campaign led by Catalina to promote rethinking disability. Its partners include  the Special Rapporteur on the situation of persons with albinism, the WHO, the ILO, the Office of the UN High Commissioner on Human Rights, the UN office in Geneva, the ICRC and its Special Fund for the Disabled, the International Disability Alliance (IDA), the Bulgarian Center for Not-for-profit Law, UNESCO, UNITAR, UNICEF, the UNHCR, and ITU. Every year, on December 3rd, the #ADay4All consortium join persons with disabilities around the world to celebrate the International Day of Persons with disabilities. 

The problem-solvers of tomorrow

Athlete and actress Aimee Mullins reminds us that the problem-solvers of the world are often those that think, see and feel differently. Our diversity as a species is our biggest asset to tackle the global challenges we face going forward. In a video message to mark International Day for Persons with Disabilities, Mullins says that we are wasting opportunities to improve our societies by excluding people with disabilities from having fully access to the benefits of life. More day4all voices
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