International Day of Persons with Disabilities: toward a disability-inclusive, accessible and sustainable post COVID-19 World

The Community’s vision of a future for all

The annual observance of the International Day of Disabled Persons is aimed at building a more inclusive, accessible and sustainable world for all. The UN is marking this day under the theme: "Building back better: towards an inclusive, accessible and sustainable post COVID-19 world by, for and with persons with disabilities”  as “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 annual observance of the International Day of Disabled Persons has been celebrated since 1981, when the commitment of the Community of Sant'Egidio for people with disabilities multiplied. Even under normal circumstances, persons with disabilities are less likely to access health care, education, employment and to participate in the community. An integrated approach is required to ensure that persons with disabilities are not left behind.The dream of their full inclusion and effective participation in society has been articulated on three primary needs: home, employment and health.

Assisted Living Facilities as alternatives to hospitalization and nursing homes

Nowadays it is possible to create new housing solutions
, focused on home care and common resources synergy involving people with disabilities, social services and informal networks such as neighborhood and volunteering.
However, for people with disabilities and for all fragile and vulnerable, hospitalization in large structures is still the most widespread and unfortunately the easiest prospect for the future.

Only in Italy, the Community of Sant'Egidio has created more than 35 experiences of cohabitation, family homes and co-housing.

These residential houses, even owned by people with disabilities, come from the desire to create long-lasting responses making it possible for people with disabilities to choose their preferred form of life, to achieve autonomy and to freely choose their own future (see art. 19 United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities).

These different housing solutions have the common characteristic of recreating a centered holistic and family network.
Disabled people help each other to stay in their own environment, in their home and to find sustainable housing solutions, creating new friendships and trying to value and make the most of their human, social and economic resources.

Employment, a word of inclusion for people with disabilities

The pandemic is testing work inclusion projects of people with disabilities. The COVID-19 virus, which aggravates physical fragility, is creating new challenges for the effective protection of labour rights. The "Trattoria degli Amici" is one of the job formation and placement experiences promoted by Sant’Egidio. A restaurant in the heart of Trastevere (centre Rome), which reopened its doors to the public with responsibility and in full safety, implementing all anti-Covid rules, and starting a new take-away and delivery service. Indeed, there are many challenges to be addressed in order to keep running this project of inclusion, bearer of a powerful message: persons with disability can prove to be fully capable to convey friendship, kindness and hospitality.

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Each of us as a unique and unrepeatable

In the encyclical "Fratelli tutti" Pope Francis recalls that “many of them feel that they exist without belonging and without participating”. “We need to care for and accompany people with disabilities in every condition of life, also through the use of current technologies but without regarding them as absolute; taking on situations of marginalization with strength and tenderness; making way with them and “anointing them” with dignity for an active participation in the civil and ecclesial community. It is a demanding and even tiring journey, which will increasingly contribute to the formation of consciences capable of recognizing each of us as a unique and unrepeatable person”.