GENEVA (ILO News) – Academy-award winning actress Marlee Matlin delivered a message for the International Day of Disabled Persons (3 December) calling for equal opportunity, equal treatment and decent work for persons with disabilities.
“Let’s make decent work a reality for all. It’s in everybody’s interest – we all stand to gain”, Ms. Matlin said in the message prepared for the International Labour Office (ILO) event on the Day. She added that people with disabilities “make a significant contribution to the workplace. That’s why this year’s International Day of Disabled Persons is focusing on the theme ‘Decent work for persons with disabilities’. Decent work is the ILO’s main goal. Decent work is for everyone, including people with disabilities. Decent work is about equality of opportunity, equal treatment, and ensuring your rights are protected.”
“Only through decent work can everyone have a fair chance at a decent life”, Ms. Matlin said in the message.
This year’s International Day marks a new effort by the ILO to promote the principle of decent work for people with disabilities and foster greater understanding of issues affecting them in the world of work. Of some 650 million people with disabilities worldwide, the ILO estimates approximately 470 million are of working age and often face high unemployment, underemployment or discrimination in the workplace.
Marc F. Suter, President of Integration Handicap of Zurich, Switzerland and a recent member of the Swiss legislature, said “inclusive employment is not only good for disabled employees but also for their non-disabled colleagues, especially to develop understanding of the right of disabled people to take their equal place in a diverse society. Recognizing the disabled counterpart as a person with skills and faculties and perceiving him or her as an equal partner strengthens their own social competence”.
Emmanuel Ofosu Yeboah of Ghana, an athlete and activist for persons with disabilities, spoke of the struggle to overcome prejudices against physically disabled persons, “we have a gift, we have something to prove to the world. We have to come together to achieve more, and these sorts of conferences and activities will help us do that”.
ILO Director-General Juan Somavia said in a statement that the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, adopted in December of last year, together with a number of ILO standards, provide important frameworks for action in support of people with disabilities, “empowering them, enriching societies and strengthening economies.”