Friday 3 December 2021 marks the International Day of People with Disability (IDPWD) and provides an opportunity to celebrate the lives, contributions and achievements of the 4.4 million Australians living with a disability. The day aims to raise awareness and take steps towards a more inclusive and accessible community.

The theme for this year's IDPWD is: “Leadership and participation of persons with disabilities toward an inclusive, accessible and sustainable post-COVID-19 world”.

Bishop Donald Sproxton, Bishop Delegate for Disability Issues, said that during the recent first general assembly of the Fifth Plenary Council of Australia, he felt inspired to urge the Church to ‘lead the way with regard to all people with disabilities, who with their families, often find themselves on the margins’.

‘I called for the Church to recognise and reach out to those with disabilities as they are our sisters and brothers, loved by God, and rightly have a place in our communities.

Bishop Sproxton said that Catholic Social Teaching and the theology of disability offer ‘a richer and more human basis for care of people with disabilities’.

He said these identify that ‘the problem of disability is not so much the impairment but the ignorance, intolerance, injustice and exclusion that misses the dignity and humanity of the person; that people with a disability are not just the object of care but the agents of their own life, and need to be heard; that it is necessary to recognise the vast diversity of the experiences of disability, and; that equity and inclusion require that people with disability have an equal opportunity to be recognised, accepted and make their own contribution to the common good.’

I encourage parish communities to continue to promote a welcoming attitude among their people to the person with disabilities. This is more than attending to issues of physical accessibility. Each person in the community needs to be accepted as a brother and sister.’

‘As Pope Francis said on the International Day of People with Disability last year, the presence of a brother or sister with a disability will help the community “to develop attitudes and acts of solidarity, and service towards them and their families. Our aim should be to speak no longer about ‘them’, but rather about ‘us’”.’

‘For people with disabilities in our communities, may their voices be heard, their experiences honoured and their gifts flourish.’

To celebrate the presence and contribution of our brothers and sisters with disabilities in our community, their families and supporters, a prayer service and special prayer have been prepared by the Office for Justice, Ecology and Peace to mark the 2021 International Day of People with Disability.