What ‘International Day of People with a Disability’ means to me

It’s the 3rd of December! Happy International Day of People with a Disability!

I thought I’d jump on here really quick and talk to you all about what this day means to me.

A quick backgrounder

Early on in my life, I didn’t have much in the way of pride for my disability. I was too busy dealing with all the issues that come with my particular set of circumstances.

But once I became more comfortable and confident with who I was and where I fit in the world, I suddenly became more aware of other people with disabilities and even proudly identified as part of this group.

My earliest memory of International Day of People with a Disability happened only a few years ago. I had just discovered the incredible writer, speaker, and appearance activist Carly Findlay. My mum took me to see her speak at a small gathering on IDPwD, where I had what I might call an awakening to a world I had previously not paid much attention.

Ever since IDPwD has marked a very special day. It also happens to be a day when many other memorable events have happened for me.

There was the year I co-hosted a set on 3CR Community Radio and met my two friends Stella Barton and Rosie Jenes. And I will never forget the year 2020 when I co-produced ABC Afternoons with Jacinta Parsons – who has since become my very good friend.

Here’s what I know

Over 4 million Australians currently live with a disability. That’s about 1 in 6 or 18% of the Australian population.

If you don’t have a disability, chances are you have met someone with a disability and no; you won’t always know.

Disability includes physical, psychological, and biological impairments. They can be both overt and covert.

But most disabled people (or people with a disability) will experience some form of discrimination if not be affected in some other way, either environmentally, socially, or emotionally.

Why is today important?

If I were to describe International Day of People with Disability in my own words, I would say it’s about celebrating the extraordinary achievements of people with disabilities and recognising the value we add to society.

It’s not about putting us up on a pedestal for doing the bare minimum, like getting up in the morning, using our personal experience solely for the purpose of voyeurism or inspiring able-bodied people.

Nor is it about feeling pity for our personal circumstances. We have our struggles just as any other person has theirs.

But today is about recognising that we are not a burden, a sob story, or heroes. We are a valuable pillar of a diverse society, and we are capable of many great things.

Claudia Forsberg is a Melbourne based writer and journalist. She is currently studying for a bachelor’s degree in communication (Journalism) at RMIT University.

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