Celebrating the International Day of People with a Disability

According to Scope, 38% of disabled children worry about being bullied and 49% of disabled people have experienced discrimination in shops. Disabled people are less likely to be in employment, the UK employment rate among working age disabled people is 46.5% compared to 84% of non-disabled people.

Every year, 3rd December marks the celebration of the International Day of People with a Disability. Based in Australia but sanctioned by the United Nations globally, the day aims to put an end to the institutional and attitudinal barriers that disabled people face by increasing public understanding, awareness, and acceptance of people with a disability. This day aims to bring together disability organisations, businesses, governments, and communities, helping us to work towards developing a more inclusive society.

For this year’s International Day of People with a Disability, it is important to celebrate the work that Caritas Social Action Network’s members carry out every day across England and Wales. CSAN member Catholic Care delivers vital learning disability services in Leeds by providing residential homes, supported living, and outreach support to those with a range of needs. 54 adults with learning disabilities currently live in Catholic Care’s residential and supported-living homes, proving how it is both essential and possible for disabled people to have a say in where they live, what they do, and who looks after them. The charity also encourages a spirit of community and integration, with their website often featuring updates on communal events. This month, one resident named Caroline attended an event in Leeds for Inter Faith Week. The event was organised especially for those with a learning disability, and Caroline enjoyed the opportunity to be able to talk to others about how important her Christian faith has been for her throughout her life. Outreach services include emotional, social, and practical support for the individual as well as for their families and carers. Helping with the preparation of meals, doing house work, giving benefits and budgeting advice, and forging friendships, all work towards allowing individuals to live full and independent lives in their own homes.

Nugent is another CSAN member which showcases a diverse range of excellent services. Rooted in the legacy of the work of Father James Nugent (1822-1905), the charity offers five secure, caring, and supported living environments to ensure that those living with mental or physical disabilities receive dignified, person-centred care.  Community services include the Individualised Community Support programme which is centred on aiding those with learning disabilities through one on one support and delivering access to activities in the individual’s local community. The drive to promote independence is commendable and visible within all aspects of this programme, ranging from the provision of education to gardening and access to a computer in community bases.

While these charities are amazing examples of the work that CSAN’s members do, it is important to remember that efforts are not strictly limited to residential and community services. On 6th November 2016, Bishop Paul McAleenan, who has worked with deaf people for many years and knows sign language, celebrated Mass for the Deaf Community at Caritas Westminster. The Mass captured the essence of what the International Day of People with a Disability is about – celebrating the community of disabled people itself, not only the structures in place to benefit them.

The views expressed in this blog are not CSAN policy.