Celebrate diversity: 3rd of December, the International Day of Persons with Disabilities

Written by Irina Silva and Rebecca Ng

The International Day of Persons with Disabilities (IDPWD) has been celebrated on the 3rd of December since 1992. The United Nations General Assembly launched the event to invite everyone to reflect on disability issues, promote well-being and mobilise support for the rights and dignity of people with disabilities in all areas of society.

For the last 30 years, a topic has been suggested to guide the celebrations around the world. The 2022 global observance is: “Transformative solutions for inclusive development: the role of innovation in fuelling an accessible and equitable world”. The UN also adopted the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in 2006, advocating for the “full and effective participation” of persons with disabilities in all aspects of society, from the right to education, employment and healthcare to the participation of political and cultural activities.

In 2018, the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS, 2019) reported that approximately 4.4 million Australians had a disability, accounting for 17.7 per cent of the population. A significant part of this population, 357,500 people, were children under the age of 15. In thinking about inclusion, equitability, and innovation in line with the theme of this year’s celebration, we reflected on the traditions of ableism in the digital world and how digital technologies can be both empowering and disabling for children and persons with disabilities. Ableism refers to “a network of beliefs, processes and practices that produces a particular kind of self and body… projected as the perfect, species-typical and therefore essential and fully human” (Campbell, 2001, p. 44). Ableist traditions, which are very much embedded in our society today, have shaped our views of persons with disabilities as not equally capable and not fully human (Bogart & Dunn, 2019). 

Digital technologies and their spaces have presented both opportunities and challenges to persons with disabilities in fighting the ableist traditions. While on the one hand, they can, for example, provide autistic children with better educational, physical and social interaction opportunities (Roberts-Yates & Silveral-Tawil, 2019), they can also widen societal gaps and civic participation due to issues such as accessibility to devices, effective digital literacy training, and accessible user design.   

Working towards a better society where every person counts was always our driver, and researching with children with disabilities opened us to a new world of possibilities. Learning from children’s voices, considering their perspectives and viewpoints, and understanding the world through their lived experiences allow us to better understand their realities. It provides contextual information that we cannot achieve without those who lived the challenges and fought for their rights in the first person. As such, it is not optional but a right for children with disabilities to be respected and have equal opportunities to voice their opinions, participate in activities and have access to digital technologies.

To celebrate this important date and to encourage you to reflect on experiences with persons with disabilities, we would like to share with you some lessons we have learnt:

  • Persons with disabilities should be essential members of decision-making processes that affect their lives.
  • Inclusion is working side by side, involving and accounting for everyone, especially those who may be vulnerable and invisible such as persons with disabilities.
  • There are always ways to include persons with disabilities in various contexts, including research.
  • Digital technologies can support work and research with persons with disabilities.
  • Before taking decisions on behalf of someone with disabilities, consider their perspectives.
  • We will always be better together!

Additionally, if you live in Brisbane and would like to celebrate this important date with us, join us for our next Stay and Play event at our QUT Children’s Technology Centre. The Centre is also looking to broaden our work to include more children with disabilities in our research and activities, so stay tuned!


Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) (2019). Disability, Ageing and Carers, Australia: Summary of Findingshttps://www.abs.gov.au/statistics/health/disability/disability-ageing-and-carers-australia-summary-findings/2018

Bogart, K.R. & Dunn, D.S. (2019). Ableism Special Issue Introduction. Journal of Social Issues, 75(3): 650-664.

Bucknall, S. (2014). Doing Qualitative Research with Children and Young People. In A. Clark, R. Flewitt, M. Hammersley, & M. Robb (Eds.), Understanding research with children and young people. SAGE.

Campbell, F.K. (2001). Inciting Legal Fictions: Disability’s Date with Ontology and the Ableist Body of the Law. Griffith Law Review, 10: 42-62.

International Day of Persons with Disabilities (2022). 2022 IDPWD THEME: “Transformative solutions for inclusive development: the role of innovation in   fuelling an accessible and equitable world”. https://idpwd.org/

Roberts-Yates, C. & Silvera-Tawil, D. (2019). Better Education Opportunities for Students with Autism and Intellectual Disabilities through Digital Technology. International   Journal of Special Education, 34(1): 197-210.

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