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International Year of Disabled Persons

The year 1981 was designated the International Year of Disabled Persons (IYDP) by the United Nations. The themes for the year were full participation in community life and equality of opportunity for people with a disability.

In South Australia the IYDP raised public awareness of people with a disability and led to a number of Government initiatives.

United Nations
In 1976, the General Assembly proclaimed 1981 as the International Year of Disabled Persons (IYDP). It called for a plan of action at the national, regional and international levels, with an emphasis on equalization of opportunities, rehabilitation and prevention of disabilities.

The theme of IYDP was “full participation and equality”, defined as the right of persons with disabilities to take part fully in the life and development of their societies, enjoy living conditions equal to those of other citizens, and have an equal share in improved conditions resulting from socio-economic development.

By proclaiming 1981 as the International Year of Disabled Persons, the General Assembly of the United Nations aimed at focusing attention on the enjoyment of disabled persons of rights and opportunities in order to ensure their full participation and integration into society. The effort to find solutions to the problem of disabled persons should be an integral part of national development strategies. There is thus a need to secure the participation of all member States, as well as relevant governmental and non-governmental organisations in the preparation and implementation of the programme of the International Year of Disabled Persons.
Kurt Waldheim, Secretary-General of the United Nations

The twin UN themes for IYDP of “full participation and equality” were accepted by the Australian Prime Minister and his cabinet, and responsibility for IYDP was given to the Minister of Social Security.

The initial planning for Australia’s participation in IYDP began in 1976 with the National Advisory Council for the Handicapped (NACH) and the Standing Interdepartmental Committee on Rehabilitation (SIDCOR). In 1980, a National IYDP Unit was established in Canberra within the Department of Social Security to provide the overall co-ordination of activities for IYDP.

A comprehensive national structure was established to co-ordinate Australia’s participation in IYDP:

  • Council of Commonwealth, State & Territory Ministers for IYDP  – to  co-ordinate Australia’s national response to IYDP
  • IYDP National Committee of Non-Government Organisations (NCNGO) – to promote the aims of IYDP throughout the volunteer sector
  • State and Territory Committees – to act as an advisory or planning committee to co-ordinate their participation in IYDP
  • Secretariat – to service the State Committee and the Minister and act as a co-ordinator and catalyst for activity in the private sector and implement local plans

South Australia
In South Australian the Premier and Cabinet gave responsibility for IYDP to the Attorney General, The Honourable Trevor Griffin M.L.C. This choice of Ministerial responsibility was unique in Australia, as it acknowledged that the issues of IYDP were more matters of rights and equality than of health and welfare.

In May, 1980 the Attorney General appointed an Advisory Council composed of eight people with direct experience of disability. By the end of June, 1980 a Government Offices Sub-Council was formed to co-ordinate the IYDP activities of Commonwealth and State Government Departments in South Australia. A State Secretariat was established using staff from the Bright Committee to service the Minister, Advisory Council and Government Offices Sub-Council and act as co-ordinator and catalyst for activities within the private sector.

South Australia led the way in Australia by appointing an I.Y.D.P. Advisory committee which consisted of people with different disabilities and by employing predominantly disabled people in its I.Y.D.P. secretariat. The consensus at the end of 1981 was that South Australia had achieved more telling results than other States.
Richard Llewellyn   What’s in a name

Special Weeks
The Advisory Council developed a program of Special Weeks to focus attention on issues affecting people with a disability.

  • Festival Week  (21st – 28th February) – to show the general public that people with a disability can and do participate in the arts
  • Recreation Week  (16th – 24th May) – highlight opportunities available to disabled people and draw attention to their needs
  • Education Week  (6th – 12th July) – to consider the challenges encountered by people with a disability from pre-school to tertiary level
  • Hidden Disabilities Week  (17th – 23rd August) – to point out the many diseases and disabilities people live with but are not apparent to others
  • Employment Week  (19th – 26th  September) – to increase employment opportunities for people with a disability
  • Access Week  (17th – 24th October) – to provide the opportunity to raise any issue that inhibited full participation and equality within community life

Other Activities
As well as the programs and activities conducted during the Special Weeks there were many other activities undertaken throughout the year.

The staff of the Secretariat were constantly involved in providing assistance and /or publicity and hardly a week went by without some major event taking place. It must also be remembered that various groups and organisations made their own contributions to the Year, often without any consultation or assistance from the Secretariat.
Breaking down the barriers  p26

The South Australian Secretariat was responsible for the administration of grants made to mark the International Year of Disabled Persons.

Funds for this purpose came from:

  • Commonwealth government  provided $50,000
  • State Government  $50,000
  • Through out the year the Secretariat received additional funds from various sources, mainly in the form of donations

A Grant’s Subcommittee was established with representatives from Government Departments to provide funds to projects involving people with a disability.

For this year a total of $100,000 has been set aside for grants to groups and organisations to implement programmes related to IYDP. Priority is given to projects run by disabled persons for disabled persons, as well as task-oriented programmes which encourage disabled and able-bodied people to work together to achieve a common goal. All programmes are to promote full participation in community life.
Speech by Attorney General, the Hon. Trevor Griffin M.L.C. at
the official S.A. launch of IYDP on Tuesday, 6th January 1981

Disabled Persons March
On Saturday 12 December a march of disabled people and their supporters took place through the streets of Adelaide. The event was organised by the Club of Physically Disabled and involved people with every sort of disability. The march was funded by a grant to the Club from the IYDP Advisory Council.

About 700 people took part in the march in the pouring rain. Leaflets were handed out along the march, to people on the footpath explaining some of the issues and the various aspects of disability. It was intended that there would be a rally in Elder Park, with entertainment and speakers. Unfortunately, due to bad weather the rally had to be abandoned soon after the march ended.

Despite this the march provided an opportunity for disabled people and their supporters to highlight issues of IYDP.

IYDP achievements
Public awareness, in South Australia of people with a disability increased.

It appears that disabled people are now being recognised as a significant group within the community with legitimate complaints and it seems likely that the experience gained during the Year will provide many disabled people with the confidence and the knowledge required to press for full participation and equality.
Breaking down the barriers  p77

There was continuous improvement in the provision of suitable physical access for people with a disability.

It must also be acknowledged that, apart from the upgrading of government buildings, many private businesses have made substantial improvements in relation to the accessibility of their premises.
Breaking down the barriers  p78

In December 1981 the Attorney General announced a number of initiatives arising from the Year.

  • Proclamation of the Handicapped Persons Equal Opportunity Act to come into effect on 1st July 1982. The Act made unlawful certain acts of discrimination in relation to employment and the provision of goods and services. However, the Act only applied to people with a physical disability not to those with an intellectual disability
  • An increase in staff to allow the Commissioner for Equal Opportunity to perform her new duties under the Act
  • The establishment of a permanent Advisory Council to advise the Government on policies affecting people with a disability
  • Investigation into the feasibility of establishing an information and resource centre

1981 International Year of Disabled Persons, Break down the barriers, Report on Australian activities: South Australia (I. L. Shephard, Executive Officer), Adelaide: Government Printer

Barriers Broken: 1981 Report; IYDP Government Offices Sub-Council South Australia (R. Llewellyn, Chairman), Adelaide: Government Printer

Llewellyn, Richard 1982. What’s in a Name – A Discussion Paper on Disability Terminology

3 Responses to “International Year of Disabled Persons”

  1. Diana Van Dam Says:

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  2. admin Says:

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    8400 2100

    8237 8111

  3. Jule Oiler Says:

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