Feel-Good Friday: 'International Day of Persons With Disabilities' Seeks to Promote Dignity and Respect for the Disabled

(AP Photo/Jacqueline Larma)

For this Feel-Good Friday, I focus on the United Nations initiative for the International Day of Persons with Disabilities. This day is observed every year on December 3, and the day serves to bring awareness to disabled individuals around the world in a multitude of situations and circumstances.


From Manchester News:

Initially starting in 1992, the day is marked by the United Nations (UN) as a day to spread awareness and gather support for the “dignity, rights, and well-being of persons with disabilities’. It covers many aspects of a variety of issues that it believes to be important to people with disabilities including those that are political, social, economic, and cultural.

The UN’s theme this year is, “Innovating for an accessible and equitable world.”

This focus is split into three key themes:

  • Innovation in disability-inclusive employment development

  • Innovation for disability-inclusive development in reducing inequality

  • Innovation for disability-inclusive development in the sport sector

The day will include discussions on inclusion in employment, how best to utilize the knowledge and skills of other-abled individuals, and in particular, the role of assistive technologies to aid and even transform the lives of people with disabilities. Until I began to interact with other-abled humans, I never understood the role that technology and AI could play to reintegrate and connect them to society at large. I appreciate the education I have received from my personal interactions, as well as my exploration of new and innovative technology.



Thanks to my lovely husband, my friendship circle expanded to include people who are blind. Some of them are legally blind, meaning they have enough visual acuity to navigate spaces, but really cannot see past a few feet, if that far. Some were born blind, and some lost their vision when they were children due to accidents or diseases. All of them are the biggest lovers of life, and when we get together, it is usually for one or several birthday celebrations. One device that has made their lives more convenient is the smartphone with all its accessibility features. Having text messages and voicemails read back to them, voice call activation and a multitude of other features that always amaze me are available to them at the touch of their fingers.

My friend Janette is a quadriplegic who works with and advocates for an organization called Triumph Foundation. Founded in 2008, the organization seeks to help children, adults, and Veterans to triumph over the obstacles they encounter after a catastrophic spinal injury. Through programs, classes, and community, Triumph helps people maximize their recovery through adaptive sports and recreation, giving grants for adaptive tools and resources, and offering recreational opportunities that challenge and enrich the body, mind, and spirit. Here is a sweet video from a recipient of Triumph’s Foundation’s outreach that has changed his life for the better.


Meet Suhrab. You helped him purchase hand controls.

He recently applied for Triumph’s grant for hand controls to give him the freedom and independence.

“My name is Suhrab Zarifi. I have been injured since 1993. I would like to thank Triumph Foundation for providing me hand controls so I can safely drive and be independent. Triumph has helped countless people who are in need of support. My gratitude goes to all of the people who work and support Triumph Foundation.”

Hand controls are amazing things. Even something that seems trivial, like playing video games, can be a barrier for someone with a physical disability. In introducing its new Xbox Adaptive Controller, Microsoft tells the story of Dan Bertholomey, who lost the use of his right arm and hand after a motorcycle accident. Playing video games was a joy in his life and also how he connected with his children. While he was able to teach himself to use his left hand, it was still cumbersome. So, Bertholomey helped Microsoft test the controller which allows connection to external buttons, switches, joysticks, and mounts, allowing gamers with disabilities like Bertholomey the ability to customize their setups.

The possibilities are endless, he said. There’s so much you can do with it. I’ve been searching for a one-handed controller for years. I’m so grateful to have a product like this. Microsoft is my hero now more than ever.


So the United Nations focus is a critical one. Not only does it give a window into a world of which we have limited knowledge, but its work in increasing awareness, inclusiveness, and discovering solutions that make the world more adaptable for people with disabilities not only enhances that person’s connection to the world and others, but recognizes and enhances their dignity, and increases their role as integral parts of society.


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