Why International Day of Persons with Disabilities is important to me

  • Posted on December 1, 2021
  • Estimated reading time 4 minutes

International Day of Persons with Disabilities (IDPD) is a day marked by the United Nations that is celebrated every year on Dec. 3. The day is about promoting the rights and well-being of persons with disabilities at every level of society and development, to raise awareness of the situation of persons with disabilities in all aspects of political, social, economic, and cultural life. 

At Avanade, we first observed this day in 2020, when we held our IDPD event with guest speaker Professor Bertolt Meyer. Professor Meyer hosted a very insightful and thought-provoking session talking about stereotypes toward people with disabilities, societal and workplace barriers, and how technological advancements, which benefit us all, promise to offset some of the limitations associated with certain disabilities.

This year Avanade, will be holding two global events to recognize that people who live with disabilities are among the most affected populations amid the COVID pandemic.   The purpose of observing IDPD each year is to reinforce the importance of securing the rights of people with disabilities, so we can participate fully, equally, and effectively in society with others, and face no barriers in all aspects of our lives. 

As I prepare to co-host this event, it's made me reflect on why IDPD is important to me and why I helped found Avanade's Disability Inclusion Employee Network that is now formally known as DiversAbility.

So, why is this important to me? My personal experiences and becoming a father.

This journey begins right back to when I was 5 years old, at a time – in 1981 to be exact – when the world was a very different place. I went to a regular state school but unlike other kids, I couldn’t speak, read or write properly, and was put into the "special class," where I was left to my own devices to learn. Unfortunately, there weren’t the levels of support we see today in schools and healthcare, though they are still underfunded by governments across the world.

My medical help came very late in life. At the age of 21, I was diagnosed with Dyslexia, at 42 with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and told that I had been suffering with a severe mental illness, Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD), most of my life that becomes less severe the older I get. All invisible disabilities. Just because you can't see it, doesn’t mean that it is not there. I can't say my life was easy – far from it – and I've had to fight to get to where I am today.

Now, as a father and carer to my 3-year-old son, who has global development delay and showing signs of Autism, I'm making sure to get him all the support he needs to have the best start in life. My son cannot speak as yet so both my partner and I are learning Makaton, a sign and symbol language used with speech to enable communication. Every day is a learning day.

Pre COVID-19 and right now through the pandemic, I think about how many other children and adults are not getting access to help or support to ensure they don’t have to struggle and have a fair start at life. I also think about how not getting any help at such an early age could severely delay development or lead to a life on the wrong side of the tracks and the wider impact on society, healthcare, social and criminal justice systems.

It was during the COVID-19 lockdown when I noticed how my 16-year-old daughter was struggling with her remote education and started to fall behind. We talked and it became apparent she was having similar experiences that I had with my Dyslexia. She needed the school environment and that interaction with her teachers to learn. When this was taken away, she became withdrawn and quiet, a common sign for girls with learning disabilities, whereas boys become loud and hyperactive. It was obvious the lockdown was affecting her mental health. We got help and after a number of tests she was told she has Dyslexia.

What more can we all do to help? We need to raise awareness and keep doing it, we need to use all platforms available to make everyone aware of all disabilities and the challenges people face on a daily basis. Being more open and starting the conversation on normalizing all disabilities is a must. Having a growth mindset unlocks so many barriers and allows us to constantly learn, develop and become more inclusive to everyone. Being aware allows us to make better decisions in work and life. We start to value the person and see beyond any disability – invisible or visible. The more we talk, the more other people talk and hopefully we can all start to make this a bigger priority for everyone in the workplace and our governments around the world, so IDPD isn't just for the day, but baked into our DNA.

If you don’t know anything about what an invisible, physical, temporary or any disability is or what it's like to have a disability, that’s OK, you can always learn. There are so many resources online and through Avanade's DiversAbility EN. Challenge yourself to learn something new this IDPD and how you can make a genuine human impact today and for the future.

Jill Thumma

Jed, Thanks for sharing your personal story. You are so courageous and your son is blessed to have you as an advocate.

April 11, 2022

Samantha George

Jed - so thankful for you and how you so honestly share your story.

December 6, 2021

Tina Senior

This is an amazing blog Jed, thank you for being so transparent.

December 3, 2021

Natalie Gunn

One of my favorite takeaways from this year's Microsoft Ability Summit was the challenge for companies to welcome the topic, even to proclaim: At ________, it's okay to talk about disabilities. Thank you, Jed, for showing us that at Avanade, it's okay to talk about it! Your story resonates and helps me feel welcome here. 

December 2, 2021

Evan Riser

Thank you so much for sharing your story Jed. I too was diagnosed late in life with ADD after having suffered of 20 years from it's comorbid condition of Severe Depression. Our willingness to speak up about mental illness helps destigmatize its presence in us and allow for an open dialogue on what used to be taboo.  I am grateful for Avanade's embracing events like IDPD and for colleagues like yourself who's humanity make's this a great place to work.

December 2, 2021

Patrick Keating

Love this share.  Thank you, Jed Khan.  

December 2, 2021

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