International Day of People with Disabilities (IDPWD)

Gwenyth Withers


Every year, on the 3 December, the world celebrates the UN IDPWD. The theme for 2021 is “Leadership and participation of persons with disabilities toward an inclusive, accessible and sustainable post-COVID-19 world.”

Everyone has faced new political, social, or economic challenges during the last two years. We need to recognise that people with disabilities have been disproportionately affected.

As a disabled woman, I have experienced this first-hand.

Isolating during the pandemic

I had to isolate myself for 18 months before vaccination, alongside my partner, who is my unpaid carer. I had to miss social events, cancel appointments, and reject employment opportunities. At the same time, my anxiety levels increased.

I was fortunate though, as I live in the UK. Here I have consistent internet access for socialising and remote work. I also have access to coronavirus vaccinations. In other parts of the world, this is not the case.

The global landscape for disabled people during the pandemic

In their daily lives, disabled populations face marginalisation, and discrimination. The pandemic has magnified these problems:

  • Access to routine health care and rehabilitation treatments has reduced.
  • Social isolation has become more pronounced. This is often due to curfews, lockdowns, and illness among caregivers.
  • Public health messaging and procedures were often not tailored to those with disabilities. Many countries have not used accessible formats.
  • Emergency preparedness has been lacking. Those with vulnerabilities and disabilities were often an afterthought.

We noticed these issues early on in the pandemic. We have been researching and working to understand these challenges and offer support. There is still a lot more to do.

Valentina and Julia from our education project in Tanzania laughing together

What we're doing for IDPWD

Over the next two weeks, we will be sharing the stories of people who engage with our international projects.

These people have all faced extra challenges during the pandemic. You will be able to read about lived experiences during the pandemic, from across Africa and Asia. We will share some of the projects we have helped to put into place all over the world.

We work with local organisations of people with disabilities (OPDs) to provide support. We want to collaborate with others to ensure long-term change.

Our CEO, Ruth Owen, and our Principal Researcher, Mark Carew, will also share their thoughts. They will consider how we can move forward sustainably.

This IDPWD is about recognising what we, as a global community, need to do, to map out an inclusive post-COVID strategy.

We hope you enjoy this glimpse into our international work. Thank you for celebrating IDPWD with us!