The date, April 2, 2019, is a special day, set aside for a special group of people; The Autistic.
The twelfth annual World Autism Awareness Day is a day for the international community to pay special recognition to people living with autism.
World Autism Awareness Day is one of only four specifically health-related United Nations observance days. The developmental, communication and social problems caused by autism can often lead to discrimination or to a need for special parental care and medical intervention. Autism Day is meant to counteract any discrimination that may occur against those with autism and their careers by creating greater understanding in societies across the world.
Instituted in 2007 to increase world awareness of the millions of autistic children in our world, every 2nd April is a UN observance day called “World Autism Awareness Day”.
WAAD 2019: Assistive Technologies, Active Participation.
The theme for the 2019 World Autism Awareness Day is ‘Assistive Technologies, Active Participation’.
For many people on the autism spectrum, access to affordable assistive technologies is a prerequisite to being able to exercise their basic human rights and participate fully in the life of their communities, thereby contributing to the realization of the Sustainable Development Goals. Assistive technology can reduce or eliminate the barriers to their participation on an equal basis with others.
The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities acknowledges the instrumental role of assistive technologies in enabling persons with disabilities to exercise their rights and freedoms. It obliges States that are party to the Convention to promote availability and use of such technologies at an affordable cost, to facilitate access to them, and to undertake or promote research and development into new such technologies.
While technological advances are continuous, there are still major barriers to the use of assistive technologies, including high costs, lack of availability, lack of awareness of their potential, and a lack of training in their use. Available data indicates that, in several developing countries, more than 50% of the persons with disabilities who need assistive devices are not able to receive them.
In September 2018, the UN Secretary-General launched a new Strategy on New Technologies, which aims to define how the United Nations system will support the use of these technologies to accelerate the achievement of the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda. The Strategy is also intended to facilitate the alignment of these technologies with the values enshrined in the UN Charter and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and the norms and standards of International Law, including the CRPD and other human rights conventions. These values include equality and equity, inclusion and transparency. Design and use of new technologies, according to the Strategy, should be guided by a rights-based and ethical perspective.
In the context of the Secretary-General’s Strategy, the 2019 World Autism Awareness Day observance at UN Headquarters in New York will focus on leveraging the use of assistive technologies for persons with autism as a tool in removing the barriers to their full social, economic and political participation in society, and in promoting equality, equity and inclusion. Topics to be addressed through discussions with self-advocates and experts include:
- The Internet and digital communities: Leveling the playing field
- Independent living: Smart home technology and more
- Education and employment: Communication and executive functioning
- Telemedicine: Opening the doors to healthcare
- The right to be heard: Political participation and advocacy
WAAD: Little Moves with Great Impact!
Autism awareness has grown worldwide in recent years. For the United Nations, the rights of persons with disabilities, including persons with autism, as enshrined in the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), are an integral part of its mandate.
When world leaders adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development in 2015, the international community reaffirmed its strong commitment to inclusive, accessible and sustainable development, and pledged that no one would be left behind. In this context, the participation of persons with autism as both agents and beneficiaries is essential for the realization of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
The Secretary General of the United Nations, António Guterres, emphasises:
“On World Autism Awareness Day, let us reaffirm our commitment to promote the full participation of all people with autism, and ensure they have the necessary support to be able to exercise their rights and fundamental freedoms.”
World Autism Awareness Day (WAAD) aims to put a spotlight on the hurdles that people with autism – and others living with autism – face every day. As a growing global health issue owing to its increasing exposure in the press and common knowledge, autism is an issue that is only gaining more understanding – and WAAD activities are planned every year to further increase and develop world knowledge of children and adults who have autism spectrum disorder (ASD).
On World Autism Day, public and private organisations all over the world that are dedicated to fighting autism and helping those with autism come together and hold special events. There are often research programs alongside the public awareness and fundraising campaigns.
World Autism Awareness Day goes one step further to celebrate the unique talents of those with autism, while putting a huge focus on the warm embrace and welcome that these skills deserve through community events around the globe.
The 2019 observance of the Day at UN Headquarters is organized by the UN Department of Global Communications and Department of Economic and Social Affairs, in close cooperation with persons with autism and their representative organizations.
Featured image source: New York Daily News