Rick Hansen | International Day of Persons with Disabilities

December 3, 2014
Sustainable Development: The Promise of Technology‘ is this year’s theme for the International Day of Persons with Disabilities. Technology has had a profound impact on all our lives. We have seen it change the way we work, communicate, entertain ourselves and go about our day-to-day activities. For people who have a disability – whether it’s visible or invisible  – technology has been able to give the gift of ability and freedom. From all terrain wheelchairs, to communication aids, to something as seemingly simple as an automatic door, these innovations are making a difference.

But perhaps more importantly, technology offers a sense hope.

  Advances in health research and science have resulted in better patient outcomes and improved care and the future will only bring more innovations; these improvements can’t come soon enough. Today, there are more than 1.3 billion people living in the world with some form of a disability, and the numbers are growing. Around the world, people with disabilities not only face physical barriers but also social, economic and attitudinal barriers. Rick-HansenRemoving physical barriers is as simple as recognizing that access is a human right. Ingraining accessibility in our laws, building codes, company policies and education systems are vital to ensure that people with disabilities reach their full potential and live the life they want and deserve. Removing invisible barriers, such as stigma, myths and attitudes, is more complicated. In Canada, people with disabilities are underemployed and underestimated. This needs to change. What use is the technology that will allow a disabled employee to do a job if the candidate can’t even get that job to begin with?

Today, I am encouraging every one of all abilities to challenge the way people with disabilities are perceived.

  Do you look at people in wheelchairs differently? Do you think someone with visibility issues would be less competent at their job? Do you focus on physical differences instead of the person inside? By reflecting on our own actions and beliefs, we can challenge existing standards and dream up new ones. If we can learn to perceive differently, we can learn new behaviours that benefit everyone.

Together, we can change the world, but it starts with each and every one of us.

NSB-Divider Read more from Rick Hansen in the Globe and Mail, or check out his speaker profile.