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International Day of Persons with Disabilities

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The International Day of Persons with Disabilities is celebrated every year on December 3rd.  The United Nations General Assembly proclaimed the annual observance in 1992 to increase awareness and to advocate for the rights of those with disabilities. Over one billion people, in our world of eight billion, have some sort of disability. Of those, more than 100 million are children, and 80 percent live in a developing country. Those with disabilities are more likely to face violence, discrimination, and lack access to basic services.


A disability can be any physical, sensory, or cognitive impairment as well as any mental or chronic disease. The disabled community must overcome many barriers, such as lack of accessibility, in order to function in a non-disabled society. The International Day of Persons with Disabilities is an opportunity to eliminate obstacles  and to empower those with disabilities to participate fully in societal life. When the barriers are broken down, and fundamental rights of inclusion and accessibility are gained, the entire community benefits. 


Best Buddies is the world’s largest organization dedicated to empowering those with disabilities and ending the isolation and exclusion that they face. I was honored to speak with Ho‘opi‘ookalani Balaz who is on the Board of Best Buddies as well as an Ambassador for the organization. Ho‘opi‘o said, “For many years, people have ignored or haven’t done nice things to those with disabilities, but for this day, we get the chance to celebrate those who have made an impact in the lives of others.”


Ho’opi’o helps to keep the Best Buddies’ mission moving forward through his valuable work. He suggests that taking part in the Best Buddies Friendship Walk or Friendship Jam would be a great way to get involved in making inclusivity a priority in our own local communities. Ho’opi’o also works with the Hawai‘i Self-Advocacy Advisory Council, Special Olympics Hawai‘i, and was a competitor in this year’s Hawai‘i State Games.


Best Buddies Hawai‘i Program Supervisor, Elizabeth Mahoe, recognizes that there has been an uprising in recognition for the disabled community, and urges everyone to celebrate persons with disabilities all year long. She suggests getting involved by volunteering at organizations which provide services and benefits. It’s easy to tell that Elizabeth loves working with this group as she reminds us that non-disabled folks can learn from those with disabilities rather than the other way around.


We would like to thank Governor Ige’s Office for responding to a request for a statement regarding the International Day of Persons with Disabilities. In a response dated November 15, 2022, Governor Ige sent this special message of equality and integration of the disabled community: 


“On this International Day of Persons with Disabilities, I want to acknowledge the importance of disability inclusion in our communities. To have a more sustainable and equitable society, we must empower people with disabilities by increasing accessibility and dismantling socio-economic barriers that hinder their growth as individuals. People with disabilities have been marginalized for far too long, and I hope people take the time today to celebrate the many contributions of persons with disabilities.”

Article written by Amy Hebenstreit, MBA, BS, RN, CCRN. Last Updated: November 22, 2022

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