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Posted November 28, 2012

Removing Barriers

United Nations’ 20th International Day of Persons With Disabilities Takes Aim at Physical, Political, Informational and Attitudinal Barriers

Waterloo Region - In 1992, the United Nations declared December 3rd as the International Day of Persons with Disabilities. Now celebrating its 20th anniversary, this important date continues to be observed around the world, each year focused upon a specific issue facing individuals with disabilities on every continent.

This year, the theme of the Day is, “removing barriers to create an inclusive and accessible society for all.” These barriers can be caused by the physical inaccessibility of the world’s built environments, by public legislation that inadvertently discriminates against people with disabilities, or by communicating information in a way that is inaccessible. However, one of the largest barriers facing people with disabilities is the attitudes of their peers without disabilities. Whether it is direct prejudice or simply a lack of concern for the needs of our neighbours with disabilities, negative and indifferent attitudes are at the heart of most barriers facing them.

This year in Ontario, the Ministry of Community and Social Services, led by Kitchener Centre MPP John Milloy, has been continuing its charge against barriers facing our province’s citizens with disabilities through the development of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA). This legislation identifies accessibility requirements in five key areas: Accessible Customer Service, Information and Communication, Employment, Transportation and Built Environment. The goal of this legislation is to make the province of Ontario as accessible as possible to people with disabilities by 2025, and compliance deadlines are continuing to come into effect.

Here in our community, the Independent Living Centre of Waterloo Region (ILCWR) offers a variety of programs and services designed to educate the public on how to remove the physical, political, informational and attitudinal barriers identified by the United Nations. By offering accessibility trainings to businesses, organizations and schools through our Beyond Barriers presentations, and puppet shows on disability issues to children through our Kids on the Block program, ILCWR works all year round on removing the barriers referenced by the United Nations’ theme.

This year, we hope you will shine a light on December 3rd’s International Day of Persons with Disabilities, and bring to the public’s attention this important occasion, and the ways in which we can all improve the quality of life for our neighbours with disabilities .

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