Joanne Flavel, University of Adelaide, PHAA Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Special Interest Group (SIG) Co-Convenor, and Chelsea Riviere, PHAA Diversity, Equity & Inclusion SIG member
In 2018, the Australian survey of Disability, Ageing and Carers reported that there were 4.4 million people with disabilities, representing 17.7% of the population. This indicates that almost one in five Australians lives with disability. The prevalence of disability among specific population groups, including Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, is considerably higher.
December 3 is International Day of People with Disability, a United Nations (UN) observed day to increase public awareness, understanding, and acceptance of disability.
Too often, disability is viewed with a deficit lens, focused on what people cannot do rather than what they can. The UN Convention of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) was adopted in 2006 and followed decades of work to change attitudes and approaches to persons with disabilities. The Convention of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities contains an overarching set of values to guide positive disability policies and has been ratified by 185 countries, including Australia.
The International Day of People with Disability builds on the principles underpinning the CRPD, celebrating the contribution and achievements of persons with disabilities, and promoting inclusion.
PHAA Disability and Health Policy
People with disabilities have the right to attain the highest standard of health without discrimination based on their disability, as enshrined in the UN CRPD. The main drivers of health inequities faced by people with disabilities are not caused by disability, but by avoidable structural and attitudinal barriers. Their achievements, whilst facing these barriers every day, are remarkable.
The PHAA adopted a Disability and Health policy at the September 2022 AGM. The policy’s background paper emphasises the remediable contributors to poorer health outcomes of people with disabilities:
- avoidable disadvantage with respect to almost all social determinants of health;
- barriers in accessing healthcare; and
- discrimination based on disability.
This policy was written by people with disabilities to advocate for action by Australian, state, and territory governments to address these drivers of poorer outcomes.
We argue that a comprehensive policy approach must be aligned with the UN CRPD and must be underpinned by principles of human rights, equity, inclusion, and intersectionality. Action aimed at improving the health of people with disabilities must by informed by meaningful involvement of people with disabilities in the development, implementation, and monitoring of policy, and in decisions that affect them. Adhere to the principle of ‘nothing about us, without us.’
Australia’s Disability Strategy 2021-2031, and earlier National Disability Strategy, have made progress toward enacting the CRPD, but concerns have been raised regarding persistent inequities experienced by people with disabilities. Intersectoral action is needed to achieve the Strategy’s outcome areas (which are aligned with social determinants of health), to better comply with the CRPD, and improve the health of people with disabilities.
International Day of People with Disability in 2022
In 1982, the World Programme of Action concerning Disabled Persons was a major outcome of the International Year of Disabled Persons. A central theme of the World Program of Action was a philosophy of achieving full participation of people with disabilities in all aspects of social and economic life. The establishment of the National Disability Insurance Scheme was a transformative step in the right direction in achieving this, and the recent debates about the cost of the Scheme overlook the contribution it has made both to the economy and to people with disabilities.
Forty years on from the International Year of Disabled Persons, let’s celebrate achievements of people with disabilities on December 3. But let’s also call for action to fulfil the vision of Australia’s Disability Strategy for ‘an inclusive Australian society that ensures people with disability can fulfil their potential, as equal members of society.’
Fulfilling Australia’s commitments under the CRPD would achieve the aims of both the International Day of People with Disability and protect, promote, and realise their human rights.
Image: International Day of People with Disability, reproduced under CC BY 3.0 AU licence.