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International Day of Persons with Disabilities

Man in wheelchair alongside woman walking near water

Together, we can create inclusive communities where people with disabilities can be healthy and lead full, active lives. Transforming one community at a time for a better world.

December 3 is International Day of Persons with Disabilities. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and its partners are working together to create opportunities for people with disabilities to join in activities that promote health within their communities.

In the United States and around the world, people with disabilities are often prevented from learning, living, working, and playing in their communities because they

  • Face negative stereotypes;
  • Have difficulty communicating; and
  • Experience physical, social and other barriers.

Communities can help improve the health and well-being of people with disabilities and support them in reaching their full potential by being

  • Inclusive;
  • Safe;
  • Resilient; and
  • Sustainable.

CDC and the National Association of Chronic Disease Directors (NACDD) partnered with the National Center on Health, Physical Activity, and Disability (NCHPAD) for a project entitled Reaching People with Disabilities through Healthy Communities. Through this project, 10 local communities in 5 states received technical assistance and tools that they used at the local level to identify and address health differences and inequities faced by people with disabilities. Specifically, this project brought together experts from the disability field to work with the local community with the support of state and local organizations to address physical inactivity, poor nutrition, and tobacco use and exposure among people with disabilities.  People with disabilities in these communities now have new opportunities for healthy eating, physical activity, community involvement, and social participation.

As CDC honors the International Day of Persons with Disabilities, we wanted to share the stories of several communities that are promoting the inclusion of people with disabilities in society and in programs that support health and prevent disease.

Park Project for People of all Abilities in Butte-Silver Bow County, Montana

Park Project for People of All Abilities in Butte-Silver Bow County, Montana

According to the 2017 Butte-Silver Bow Community Health Needs Assessment, one-quarter of adults in Butte-Silver Bow County are limited in some way due to a physical, mental, or emotional problem. In addition, 1 in 5 adults reported their overall health is “fair” or “poor,” worse than the overall health reported throughout the rest of Montana, where fewer residents, about 1 in 7, reported “fair” or “poor” health.

In an effort to improve Butte-Silver Bow County residents’ health, a group of local public health and disability advocates collaborated with NACDD’s Reaching People with Disabilities through Healthy Communities project to develop a community action plan by evaluating the community and identifying the factors that could potentially contribute to this improvement. The results of the evaluation called attention to the lack of inclusive physical activity and healthy eating options in Butte.

Butte residents supported an effort to construct a new outdoor pool, which, given the lack of inclusive physical activity options, will be designed to make the pool facilities more accessible to people with disabilities. A representative from NACDD’s Reaching People with Disabilities through Healthy Communities project joined the pool design committee to provide input on inclusive design for the new facility, as well as provide suggestions on integrating healthy eating options at the pool.  As a result of this collaboration and guidance, the new pool will include a sloped entry, two wheelchair-accessible pool lifts, disability accessible family changing rooms, as well as other inclusive features. The park where the new pool complex is located will also feature a playground with equipment that children and adults of all abilities can use.

Making the Monday Mile inclusive for all in Syracuse, NY

Making the Monday Mile Inclusive for All in City of Syracuse, New York

Approximately 1 in 5 adults in New York State has a disability, and compared to adults without disabilities, they are less likely to get leisure-time physical activity.

Two nonprofit organizations based in Syracuse, NY – ARISE, a Center for Independent Living, and HealtheConnections, a group that supports better health for the people living in Central New York – partnered with NACDD’s Reaching People with Disabilities through Healthy Communities project to create inclusive health opportunities.

One project, done in collaboration with the Lerner Center for Public Health Promotion at Syracuse University, is Monday Mile, a program with 25 designated 1-mile walking routes. Each route is marked with maps, directional arrows, and distance markers to encourage residents to be physically active.

As a direct result of the NACDD’s Reaching People with Disabilities through Healthy Communities project, the Lerner Center adopted a new Inclusivity Policy to incorporate the principles of inclusion in the design of new Monday Mile routes. They created a checklist of considerations and a feasibility assessment to help designers carry out the policy.

Project partners are already using the Inclusivity Policy with interested groups to designate a new Monday Mile route in a low-income Syracuse neighborhood that lacks safe, accessible walking paths. Partners are also developing Monday Miles routes in parks and public places in counties in central New York, where an estimated 95,000-115,000 people with disabilities could benefit. The Inclusivity Policy is now an integral part of the Monday Mile toolkit [9.26 MB], a planning resource used by local communities to plan accessible walking routes.

CDC Works to Improve the Health of People with Disabilities

CDC’s Disability and Health Branch promotes the health and full participation in society by people with disabilities across their lifespans. We provide funding and ongoing scientific support to two National Centers on Health Promotion for People with Disabilities that promote inclusion of people with disabilities in programs that promote health and prevent disease. These Centers also develop tools and resources for improving the quality of life for people living with mobility limitations (such as difficulty walking or climbing stairs) and intellectual disabilities (such as difficulty making decisions, concentrating, learning, or remembering). These two centers are the

CDC’s Disability and Health Branch also supports 19 State Disability and Health Programs to further lower differences in health between people with and without disabilities, prevent long-standing diseases, such as diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart disease, and increase the quality of life for people with disabilities.

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