Over a billion people - approximately 15 per cent of the world’s population - live with a disability of some sort. Including persons with disabilities in all aspects of social life is a major challenge. UNESCO is particularly concerned about ensuring their access to quality education on the one hand and information and knowledge on the other.
“The 2012 International Day of Persons with Disabilities is an opportunity to renew our commitment to build inclusive and accessible societies,” says the Director-General of UNESCO, Irina Bokova. Celebrated annually on 3 December, the International Day aims to increase awareness and support for the dignity and welfare of persons with disabilities. In 2012, the celebration is stressing the human rights and fundamental freedoms of persons with disabilities, as their vulnerable position often makes it difficult for them to assert their rights.
There is a strong correlation between poverty and disability. For example, most children with disabilities live in developing countries and represent a third of all out-of-school children. Those who attend are less likely to complete their schooling. The education for children with disabilities for the most part continues to take place in separate educational settings.
UNESCO takes a rights-based approach to inclusive education, supported by numerous international human rights treaties. As part of the Global Partnership for Children with Disabilities, the Organization works to help Member States implement Article 24 of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which recognizes the right of persons with disabilities to education.
The Organization also promotes exchanges of good practice through the database “Inclusive Education in Action”, launched in 2010 by the European Agency for Development in Special Needs Education, with UNESCO’s support. In addition, every two years, UNESCO launches the UNESCO/Emir Jaber al-Ahmad al-Jaber al-Sabah Prize funded by the State of Kuwait to promote quality education for persons with intellectual disabilities.
UNESCO promotes the social inclusion of people with disabilities through information and communication technologies (ICTs) notably for access to information and knowledge. Assistive technologies can improve the quality of life of persons with disabilities by providing better access to information and knowledge, to education and healthcare, as well as to employment. An online knowledge community on ‘Building Inclusive Societies for Persons with Disabilities’ is currently being developed.
On 3 December, the International Day of Persons with Disabilities, UNESCO is organizing an event to present its actions in ensuring access to quality education, information and knowledge as well as showing how civil society can advance the rights of people with disabilities. Successful inclusive education practices from Quebec, Canada will be showcased at the event which will also advocate for the rights of persons with disabilities through art and feature the work of blind photographers and short documentary films.