International Day of Persons with Disabilities: Leaving no one behind!

On 11 June 2019, the United Nations launched its Disability Inclusion Strategy in line with the commitment to make the United Nations an inclusive organization for all. The Strategy provides the foundation for sustainable and transformative progress on the inclusion of persons with disability through all pillars of the work of the United Nations [1].

At a population of over 1 billion, people who live with disabilities are the world’s largest minority [1]. This population of people are particularly vulnerable to many human rights violations, not only because of their relevant conditions but also of attitudinal and environmental barriers that hinders their full and effective participation in society on an equal basis with others, as they are denied chances to work, go to school and participate fully in society, hindering their prosperity and affecting their well being [2]. Such factors, hindering the inclusion and participation of persons with disabilities, also include inaccessible physical environments and transportation, the unavailability of assistive devices and technologies, non-adapted means of communication, gaps in service delivery, and discriminatory prejudice and stigma in society [4]. Despite the magnitude of the issue, and despite all of the various instruments and undertakings, persons with disabilities continue to face barriers in their participation as equal members of society and violations of their human rights in all parts of the world [2].

Among the undertakings to ensure the fulfillment of the rights of persons with disabilities, is the inclusion of disability in various targets and as a cross-cutting issue in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, with the aim of leaving no one behind [5]. Agenda 2030 is a journey. A journey that aims to build a better future for all people, including millions who are currently denied the chance to lead a decent, dignified and rewarding lives and to achieve their full human potential. No one must be or should be left behind in this walk to progress, as the future belongs to everyone. A future, respecting every privileged and less privileged section of the society, where the barriers of discrimination which stand in the way to progress are overtaken by the urgent global need for justice. A future where the mainstream life doesn’t hold back the ability of others to fulfil their necessities. A future where no one is excluded.

Supporting the inclusion and participation of persons with disabilities is a shared responsibility between governments and members of the society. It requires promoting equal chances and platforms, as well as creating a more inclusive society for persons with disabilities to live to their potential. Legislations, facilitating the integration and empowerment of persons with disability, play an integral role in allowing them to live with dignity, lead their life and contribute fully to their communities. This is also emphasized in the The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (Article 9). The Convention “seeks to enable persons with disabilities to live independently and participate fully in all aspects of life and development. It calls upon States Parties to take appropriate measures to ensure that persons with disabilities have access to all aspects of society, on an equal basis with others, as well as to identify and eliminate obstacles and barriers to accessibility” [2]. When barriers to the inclusion of persons with disabilities, as evidence and experience shows, are removed and persons with disabilities are empowered to participate fully in their society, their entire community benefits [1].

We, in IFMSA, believe in the right of all individuals, especially vulnerable groups including persons with disabilities, to opportunities to participate in and contribute to their societies while respecting their dignity and protecting their emotional and social well-being. We also believe that the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) should be presented as a guiding framework in the work towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, and that following a rights-based approach to development is essential to ensure everyone’s meaningful participation along the way and that no one is left behind in the quest for a better world. As we commemorate the International Day for Persons with Disabilities, we call on EVERYONE to step up efforts to empower persons with disabilities to lead their own lives and participate in their communities.


  1. The United Nations.
  2. Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
  3. International Disability Alliance.
  4. World Bank.
  5. UN Flagship Report on Disability and Development (2018).

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