The International Day of People with Disability (IDPWD) was introduced by the United Nations in 1992 and has been supported by the Australian Government since 1996. Taking place on 3 December each year, this day aims to increase public awareness, understanding and acceptance of people with disability, and to celebrate their achievements and contributions. There are 4.4 million Australians with disability. The 2021 theme for IDPWD is Leadership and participation of persons with disabilities: toward an inclusive, accessible, and sustainable post-COVID-19 world.

The Australian Catholic Bishops Conference’s Office for Justice Ecology and Peace has put together resources, including:

  • IDPWD Prayer and Prayer Service
  • Reflections from Catholic Social Teaching
  • Images for presentations or social media
  • Links to personal reflections and resources

IDPWD Prayer and Prayer Service

A prayer service including music, leaders guide and people’s order.

All prayer service resources including PowerPoint.

Catholic Social Teaching

Pope Francis highlighted three points in his 2020 message for IDPWD: promoting a culture of life that constantly affirms the dignity of people with disabilities; inclusion that seeks to speak no longer about ‘them’, but rather about ‘us’; and opening active participation to people with disability to support all to belong and to contribute in their communities:

“In virtue of their baptism, all the members of the People of God have become missionary disciples. All the baptised, whatever their position in the Church or their level of instruction in the faith, are agents of evangelisation. “

Evangelii Gaudium, 120. 

People with disability are part of the Body of Christ. Their voices in any conversations and decisions regarding their lives must be centred and heard: disability advocate Carly Findlay names this as “nothing about us without us.” Justin Glyn SJ links this to the life of the Trinity in communion:

“The life of the Kingdom of God, now and in the age to come, is a life of interdependence of all in God. Like God in Trinity, human life is relational. Our gifts supplement the weakness and limitations of others. Impairment – which in the final analysis is the lot of the whole of humanity – reminds us that, for all the beauty of our variegated bodies, we are an interdependent community called into new life in and through a God who has made us for love of God and others whose very essence is relationship.”

‘Us’ Not ‘Them’, Catholic Social Justice Series, 2019


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Message from Pope Francis (PDF)


                                                           Self-Help Centre for People with Disabilities/Other Abilities


The Emmanuel Centre was created in 1981 as a Catholic Ministry for people with disabilities/people with other abilities, as well as their families, and carers.

The Emmanuel Centre provides individually tailored, self-help disability services in an environment that fosters spiritual growth, good mental health and general wellbeing.

Our community is based on discovering what our members need and designing programs around those needs. Currently, we run workshops and programs including arts and crafts, and mental health first aid workshops.

We are an agency of the Catholic Archdiocese of Perth and home to the Catholic Deaf and Hard of Hearing Ministry.

Our guiding principles are:

Self Help: the sharing of gifts and skills of people with a disability and their families. Everyone is encouraged to contribute.

Place: where gifts and skills can be shared to receive help.

Responding to needs: we create programs based on the needs of the individuals who come, rather than have a program and get people to come.

Connection and community: providing opportunity and a welcoming place for sense of belonging and relationships

Advocacy: support the whole person

Accommodation support: have a place for people with disabilities / people with other abilities to live.

Chaplaincy and pastoral care: help people to learn about God.

Spiritual counselling: help people with their lives.

Personal growth and skill development: education support within the church and community settings to help people with disabilities/people with other abilities and their families with their challenges.


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Transformative solutions for inclusive development: the role of innovation in fueling an accessible and equitable world

Disability inclusion is an essential condition to upholding human rights, sustainable development, and peace and security. It is also central to the promise of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development to leave no one behind. The commitment to realizing the rights of persons with disabilities is not only a matter of justice; it is an investment in a common future.

The complex and interconnected crises facing humanity today, including the shocks resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic, the war in Ukraine and other countries, a tipping point in climate change, all pose humanitarian challenges of an unprecedented nature, as well as threats to the global economy.

Most often, in moments of crisis, people in vulnerable situations such as persons with disabilities are the most excluded and left behind. In line with the central premise of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development to “leave no one behind”, it is crucial for governments, public and private sectors to collaboratively find innovative solutions for and with persons with disabilities to make the world a more accessible and equitable place.


The United Nations Disability Inclusion Strategy

When launching the United Nations Disability Inclusion Strategy in June 2019, the Secretary-General stated that the United Nations should lead by example and raise the Organization’s standards and performance on disability inclusion—across all pillars of work, from headquarters to the field.

The United Nations Disability Inclusion Strategy provides the foundation for sustainable and transformative progress on disability inclusion through all pillars of the work of the United Nations. Through the Strategy, the United Nations system reaffirms that the full and complete realization of the human rights of all persons with disabilities is an inalienable, integral and indivisible part of all human rights and fundamental freedoms.

In October 2021, the Secretary-General submitted his second report on steps taken by the UN system to  implement the UN Disability Inclusion Strategy in 2020.  Given the impact of the COVID-19 on persons with disabilities, the report also contains a brief reflection on disability-inclusive COVID-19 response and recovery.


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