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International Day of People with Disabilities

A gentleman serving at a hospitality service

3 December All day

The International Day of People with Disability was introduced by the United Nations in 1992 and has been supported by the Australian Government since 1996. This day aims to increase public awareness, understanding and acceptance of people with disability, and to celebrate their achievements and contributions. There are 4.4 million Australians with disability. The 2021 theme for IDPWD is Leadership and participation of persons with disabilities: toward an inclusive, accessible, and sustainable post-COVID-19 world. 

The ACBC Office for Justice, Ecology and Peace has created resources for the day, including prayers, prayers services, information and stories as well as images that can be used for presentations or social media. These resources are available in full here.

Pope Francis highlighted three points in his 2020 message for IDPWD: promoting a culture of life that constantly affirms the dignity of people with disabilities; inclusion that seeks to speak no longer about ‘them’, but rather about ‘us’; and opening active participation to people with disability to support all to belong and to contribute in their communities: 

In virtue of their baptism, all the members of the People of God have become missionary disciples. All the baptised, whatever their position in the Church or their level of instruction in the faith, are agents of evangelisation. 

Evangelii Gaudium, 120. 

People with disability are part of the Body of Christ. Their voices in any conversations and decisions regarding their lives must be centred and heard: disability advocate Carly Findlay names this as “nothing about us without us.” Justin Glyn SJ links this to the life of the Trinity in communion: 

The life of the Kingdom of God, now and in the age to come, is a life of interdependence of all in God. Like God in Trinity, human life is relational. Our gifts supplement the weakness and limitations of others. Impairment – which in the final analysis is the lot of the whole of humanity – reminds us that, for all the beauty of our variegated bodies, we are an interdependent community called into new life in and through a God who has made us for love of God and others whose very essence is relationship.

‘Us’ Not ‘Them’, Catholic Social Justice Series, 2019. 

Going Deeper 

  1. United Nations international and national resources: https://www.idpwd.com.au 

2. Pope Francis’ Message for the International Day of Persons with Disabilities, 2020: 


3. ‘Us’ not ‘Them’: Disability and Catholic Theology and Social Teaching by Justin Glyn SJ: 

4. First Peoples Disability Network, Australia: http://fpdn.org.au  

5. Growing Inclusion in Schools with Kurt Fearnley: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G0Ln7efGBDQ  

6. Growing Up Disabled in Australia, edited by Carly Findlay: 

7. Growing Up Disabled in Australia: Carly Findlay and Justin Glyn SJ: https://jesuit.org.au/growing-up-disabled/

8. Growing Up Disabled in Australia: Podcast with Carly Findlay 


9. Inclusion Australia, the national voice for Australians with intellectual disability: 

10. Speaking Insights Autism Advocacy, Daniel Giles OAM: https://www.speakinginsights.com.au