This day is marked around the world every year on December 3rd to promote awareness and mobilize support for critical issues pertaining to the inclusion of persons with disabilities in society and development.
The United Nation’s theme for 2015 is “Inclusion matters- access and empowerment for people of all abilities”.
Persons with disabilities face many barriers to inclusion and do not enjoy access to society on an equal basis with others, including vital areas of life such as transportation, employment, education and social and political participation.
The sub-themes for the 2015 observance of the International Day are:
By promoting empowerment, real opportunities for people are created. Empowerment involves investing in people - in jobs, health, nutrition, education, and social protection. When people are empowered they are better prepared to take advantage of opportunities and can more readily give back to our society. Put simply inclusion is good for all of us.
The U.S. International Council on Disabilities (USCID) will host its second annual gala on December 2, the eve of the International Day of Persons with Disabilities. This year USCID will be honoring the Senator Kelly Ayotte and Kalle Könkkölä for their contributions, advocacy and leadership. Learn more about why below.
Dole-Harkin Award Recipient- Senator Kelly Ayotte (R-NH)
She has been a longtime advocate for people with disabilities, demonstrated by her legislative actions and leadership, including support of the U.S. ratification of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), joining Senators Dole, Harkin, Kirk, and McCain. She’s demonstrated continued adherence to the tenets of the historic Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), particularly relevant in this 25th anniversary year, and initiated legislation to benefit all persons with disabilities, including this years’ TIME Act (Transitioning to Integrated and Meaningful Employment), ending the practice of paying workers with disabilities subminimum wages. The TIME Act further ensures workers with disabilities are treated equally and do not have to work in an environment where their wages and expectations are lower than those of workers without disabilities. Senator Ayotte has been a vocal supporter of the CRPD and strong leader on behalf of all persons with disabilities.
International Advocate Award Recipient- Kalle Könkkölä of Finland
Kalle Könkkölä was a member the Finnish Parliament from 1983-1987, where he advocated to make trains accessible in Finland; now, fifteen years later, we witness the results of his advocacy and leadership, with accessible trains in Finland. Kalle, who has been physically disabled since birth, works in the Kynnys association, which campaigns for greater rights and accessibility for people with disabilities. Kalle was the chairperson and then director of Threshold (the Finnish equivalent to an Independent Living Center). Currently, he is Executive Officer of Disabled Peoples' International (DPI) and Vice-President of the Finnish Disability Forum in Finland. Kalle is also Chair of the Abilis Foundation of Finland, which funds disabled peoples organizations in developing countries.
Authored by Attorney Jennifer Kupiszewski
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