Statement on behalf of Disabled People’s International delivered by Miki Matheson at the Opening of International Day of Persons with Disabilities 2015
Excellencies, Secretary General Mr. Ban Ki-Moon, Madam Pollard, ladies and gentlemen
I am delighted to be here today celebrating the International Day of Persons with Disabilities.
When I see the world as a mother with a disability, I immediately face physical barriers, attitudinal barriers, social and economic barriers that limit our full potential around the world. About 20 years ago, I was involved in a car accident and became a wheelchair user. In just one second, despite your wealth, your education, or your social status, accident or illness could happen to you and you could become a person with a disability permanently.
It was shocking to find out that I would no longer be able to walk on my own two feet, but what was most shocking was when I realized how differently society viewed and treated persons with disabilities. When the use of my legs was taken away, lots of abilities, experiences, opportunities, and dignity were also taken away from me. Many people saw my wheelchair before they saw me.
Today, there are more than 1.3 billion people living with some form of disability, and the numbers are growing. While we have made great strides towards creating an inclusive and accessible world, our work is never ending. As a Paralympian, I am excited that my hometown Tokyo will host the Paralympic Games in 2020. As Sir Phillip Craven the chairperson of the International Paralympic Committee said, the games are considered to be the best event for driving societal change for the better of everyone. Lord Coe the chairman of the IAAF recently descried the Paralympics in London as a piece of social engineering that went way beyond any legislation.
The ideal society will enable people of all abilities to participate and contribute as productive members of our communities. Together we need to embark on a long-term programme of inclusion, and to encourage all people to maximise their development of whatever positive ability they possess, rather than focusing on any perceived lack there of. The theme for this year’s International Day of Persons with Disabilities ‘Inclusion Matters: Access, Empowerment for People of All Abilities’ therefore could not have been more relevant. With the world looking at Agenda 2030, the time to make the right real for people with disabilities is NOW.
Together we need to embark on a long-term programme of inclusion, and to encourage all people to maximise their development of whatever positive ability they possess, rather than focusing on any perceived lack thereof.
In closing I would ask you to try to imagine a totally united, inclusive, and accessible global community. What freedom. What dreams and ideals could not be accomplished, with everyone from all communities working together. Hold this dream in your minds eye for a just minute and we are already one step closer. Wouldnt it be the “Best World Ever”!
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