This year’s International Day of Disabled Persons focuses on the goal of decent work for persons with disabilities, and reminds us that every person deserves opportunities for productive employment in conditions of freedom, equity, security and human dignity.
Persons with disabilities are deprived of adequate employment opportunities in nearly every society. Estimates show that at least half of all disabled people in developed nations, and the vast majority of those with disabilities in developing countries, are unemployed. Most others are under-employed, or will never have full access to the labour market. This situation is deplorable.
Persons with disabilities have the ability to make valuable contributions in the workforce as employees, entrepreneurs and employers. But they face numerous barriers that prevent them from fulfilling their potential. Early in life, they encounter difficulties gaining access to an education or acquisition of employable skills. Later on, fears and prejudices about their abilities deny them the work opportunities available to others. Inaccessible workplaces, explicit and implicit discriminatory legislation and practices, and unfavourable work conditions pose additional hurdles.
Yet, whenever the opportunity arises, persons with disabilities prove their worth as productive members of the workforce. That is why more and more employers are slowly coming to the realization that employing persons with disabilities makes good sense. Changing workplace environments and advances in information and communications technologies are also giving persons with disabilities new avenues for seeking decent work.
Most States do not have legislation protecting persons with disabilities in the workplace. The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which is expected to enter into force early next year, recognizes the rights of persons with disabilities to work and employment on an equal basis with others. It stresses their right to earn a living from freely chosen work, and to work in an environment that is both accessible and accepting.
On this International Day, let us reaffirm our commitment to seeking equal rights for all, and let us pledge to ensure the full participation of persons with disabilities in the lives of their communities.