Thirty years ago, the United Nations General Assembly declared December 3 the International Day of Persons with Disabilities (IDPD). This day celebrates the now one billion individuals worldwide with lived experience of disability and acknowledges work being done across the globe to remove barriers to their full participation in all areas of society. IDPD champions inclusion as a necessary mindset, urging policy-makers, governments, and citizens to recognize how ableism informs language and behaviour as much as it affects the design of spaces and systems.
This year’s theme for the International Day of Persons with Disabilities is “Transformative solutions for inclusive development: the role of innovation in fuelling an accessible and equitable world.” Under this theme, the UN encourages global conversations about how to remove barriers in both public and private sectors for those with lived experience of disability, and what innovations can support full access to employment in the rapidly changing world of work. Such innovations rely on diverse perspectives, a willingness to challenge norms and assumptions, and the participation and expertise of persons with disabilities.
The University of Toronto will make vital contributions to these conversations at the upcoming event, National Dialogues and Action for Inclusive Higher Education and Communities: Addressing Ableism, Disability, and Accessibility in Canadian Higher Education, hosted by UTSC on December 2, 2022. This virtual, day-long event—open to everyone in the U of T community—will ignite a series of discussions about how post-secondary institutions across Canada can dismantle structural ableism and build inclusivity into everything they do, from teaching, research, and curriculum planning to infrastructure, communications, and design with an intersectional lens. Ideas generated from these discussions will assist post-secondary institutions in creating learning and working environments where persons with disabilities feel a sense of belonging, in a place where they can do their best work, be their most creative, and make their greatest contributions. Across our three campuses, we have already started this work and are excited about the possibility of learning about what more we can do. I encourage you to read the University’s 2021 AODA Report to learn of inclusive innovations currently underway.
As we approach the International Day of Persons with Disabilities, renew your commitment to making the University of Toronto more accessible. Doing so can come in many forms: continuing to share your feedback about how the University is addressing barriers. Deepening your understanding of universal design principles through professional development offered by the AODA Office and tri-campus offices. Reflecting on how to incorporate accessibility into your daily work. Beginning new projects and initiatives with an inclusive mindset, and maintaining this focus in implementation. Through such efforts, we can ensure that all members of our community can participate equally in the activities and aspirations that define our institution.