IDPD 2021

International Day of Persons with Disabilities

Leadership and participation of persons with disabilities toward an inclusive, accessible and sustainable post-COVID-19 world



December 3rd 2021 is International Day of Persons with Disabilities (IDPD), with the theme “Leadership and participation of persons with disabilities toward an inclusive, accessible and sustainable post-COVID-19 world”. People with disabilities have been among the most affected by COVID-19, and this year, IDPWD calls on public health officials, political representatives, service providers, advocates, supporters, and all of us, to learn from the experiences of people living with disabilities during this pandemic, and push for more meaningful investments into the socioeconomic building blocks which will reduce the barriers faced by people with disabilities. 


Message from our co-Director Professor Tom Shakespeare 

The COVID-19 pandemic has shown that persons with disabilities can be an afterthought in a crisis. Some are more at risk of falling ill, and having negative outcomes from illness, including more deaths. All are at risk of exclusion when social networks are broken, through social distancing or curfews or suspension of social care. Whereas online connection removes many physical and sensory barriers for persons with disabilities, we need to remember that the digital divide means that persons with disabilities are much less likely to be online than everyone else.  

Voluntary organisations – also called third sector organisations or non-governmental organisations (NGO) – have stepped into the breach when statutory services are absent or unable to pivot quickly. Organisations of disabled people in particular have been flexible and responsive. Persons with Disabilities have sometimes come together in online networks, have sourced Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and have supported each other in various ways, such as The Staying Inn, an online network in UK for socially isolating people.  

We hope that, despite the new variants, the pandemic will be over in the next 12 months. We hope that lessons have been learned about the need to include persons with disabilities, and the need to see NGOs as key partners of statutory services. Participation of persons with disabilities can easily lapse if we are not attentive. Leadership from persons with disabilities is required to ensure our needs are not overlooked.  

Happy International Day of Persons with Disabilities!  

Read further reflections from Tom and colleagues here.


To mark IDPD and to learn more:

1. Explore ICED’s work during COVID-19 

Our team worked hard throughout the pandemic to generate evidence on the experiences of people with disabilities and guidance on how to develop a disability-inclusive response. Visit this webpage to learn more about the work we’ve been doing. Two of our projects saw us explore the experiences of people with disabilities across the globe, working with policymakers and third sector organisations to get their voices heard and to discuss strategies for change. 

  • UK: Funded by UKRI, this project saw researchers from ICED and the University of Glasgow conducted in-depth qualitative research with 71 disabled participants and 28 organisations for and of disabled people from across England and Scotland. Read the central paper here.
  • Global: Funded by IDS and in collaboration with local researchers, this project explores the impact of COVID-19 on people with disabilities in India, Bangladesh, Zambia, Ghana, Vietnam, and Syrian refugees in Turkey. Currently underway, this study involves interviews with people with disabilities, 60 in each country, at two timepoints during the pandemic. 


2. Watch this video

Have a look at the UN's video 'Five things to know about living with a disability during COVID-19'.


3. Visit this webpage

CBM Global have developed a toolkit and resources to build back a #BetterWorldForAll. Check out their webpage here, with videos, case studies, stories and advocacy opportunities.


4. Listen to this

  • Stacy Masucci, publisher for bioscience and translational medicine at Elsevier speaks to Richard Mankin and Kate Nash about the challenges, barriers and opportunities for people who live with disabilities in the context of the global pandemic. Listen here.
  • Director of Accessibility at Microsoft, David Dame, who has cerebral palsy, discusses how the pandemic made the world more accessible, and his role in helping to shape a world with everyone’s future in mind. Listen here.


5. Support this campaign

WeThe15 is a global movement, which was founded by a coalition of organisations from sport, human rights, policy, communications, business, arts and entertainment, uniting to change attitudes and create more opportunities for persons with disabilities, as well as improve mobility and accessibility.


6. Attend these events

  • Join the World Bank and a panel of experts at 8.30am EDT for an event on “Leadership and Participation of Persons with Disabilities.” Their event will feature leaders from government, the private sector, and civil society, in addition to an exciting performance by deaf rapper and performer, Wawa. It will commemorate the International Day of Persons with Disabilities with a discussion on how the World Bank can move toward an inclusive, accessible and sustainable future in a post-COVID-19 World
  • Join ICED on December 10th to mark the upcoming Universal Health Coverage Day (UHC). Professor Hannah Kuper, Professor Simbarashe Rusakaniko, Tracey Smythe, and Tapiwanashe Kujinga will discuss "Is Universal Health Coverage achievable without a focus on disability? A case study from Zimbabwe in the time of COVID-19". Further details here.