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Cartoon guide dog with sign 'disability discrimination is not fetch'

International day of persons with disability

In 1992, the United Nations General Assembly proclaimed that 3 December would be recognised annually as the International Day of Persons with Disability.

Historically, disability was seen as a medical impairment, meaning that society believed people with disability had a condition or impairment that needed medical treatment. However, after WWI and WWII, many soldiers returned from war with impairments. With the increased numbers of people with disability, it was necessary to consider alternative forms of care other than institutionalisation. In the 1970s, the global disability rights movement ramped up its advocacy for self-representation and self-determination.

The United Nations declared 1981 the year of the International Year of Disabled Persons. In the same year, Disabled Peoples International held its first World Assembly in Singapore. People with disability began to advocate for disability to be viewed more as a public issue rather than a private problem. After decades of advocacy, the United Nations adopted the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in 2006.

In Australia, there has been legislation to protect people with disability from discrimination since 1992. The Disability Discrimination Act makes discrimination on the basis of disability unlawful and promotes equal rights, equal opportunity and equal access for people with disability.

However, despite legislation existing at both the international and domestic levels that seeks to prevent discrimination on the basis of disability, people with disability continue to experience discrimination and barriers to participation in many parts of society.