Celebrating UN International Day of Persons with Disabilities – “The Future is Accessible”

Date published: 03 December 2019

In seeking to highlight this message the Department for Communities and Disability Action co-hosted an event today at PRONI to celebrate United Nations International Day of Persons with Disabilities.

Celebrating UN International Day of Persons with Disabilities – “The Future is Accessible”
Pictured at the event are Head of the NI Civil Service David Sterling, Disability rights advocate Dermot Devlin, Sean Fitzsimons, Employment Advocacy Co-ordinator at Disability Action, and DfC Permanent Secretary Tracy Meharg.

Since 1992, the UN has marked the day annually on 3 December to shine a light on the societal benefits of including people with disabilities in every aspect of community life.  The day is celebrated throughout the world, growing year on year in size, importance and popularity. 

Opening the event, David Sterling, Head of the Northern Ireland Civil Service (NICS) said: “People with disabilities should have the same opportunities as those of us who do not have a disability. It is government’s responsibility to ensure that everyone has equal access to services and the same ability to contribute to society.

“The NICS is committed to improving outcomes for people with disabilities and making our communities more inclusive. Collaboration between organisations, including the disability sector, is crucial in achieving this.”

Speaking at the event, Tracy Meharg, Permanent Secretary at the Department for Communities, said: “The Department continues to work with people with disabilities and the disability sector in addressing relevant issues and in providing support for the dignity, rights and well-being of all.

“Any future cross-Departmental Disability Strategy will be subject to the necessary agreement of a future Minister and Executive.” 

“However, there is much that can be done in the meantime to promote collaboration between Departments in respect of the actions they deliver for people with disabilities and lay the groundwork for a future strategy. 

“I am committed to working to improve the lives of people with disabilities and my Department continues to deliver actions in support of this, for example through our work with Disability Sport NI, providing the Access and Inclusion Fund to district councils which improves disabled access to arts, culture and active recreation venues, and delivering on our Disability Employment Strategy and its associated Workable (NI) and Access to Work Programmes.”

Disability rights advocate Dermot Devlin delivered the keynote speech of the day, focusing on this year’s United Nations theme of “The Future is Accessible”.

Sean Fitzsimons, Employment Advocacy Co-ordinator at Disability Action, said:  “As we come together to celebrate International Day of Disabled People, it is an opportunity to reflect on the many achievements of our community. 

“It also affords us the chance to look at the efforts being made by our allies across civil society to advance disability equality and inclusion.  Our clarion call of “Nothing About Us, Without Us” resounds as we move boldly into the next decade; disabled people have the skills, talent and experience necessary to drive positive change.  It is imperative we continue to collectively listen, learn and make space at all tables.”


Notes to editors: 


  1. The keynote speaker at the event was Dermot Devlin, disability rights advocate and Chief Executive of My Way Access.
  2. Participants from the Northern Ireland Civil Service work placement scheme for people with disabilities and the Department for Communities Access to Work programmes presented their personal experiences of the employment opportunities offered via these initiatives.
  3. A panel representing both members of the Senior Civil Service and the disability community was chaired by Sean Fitzsimons, Disability Action.  Panel members were Department for Communities Permanent Secretary Tracy Meharg, NICS Disability Champion Ronnie Armour, singer and civil servant Andrea Begley, disability rights advocate Tony O’Reilly and Disability Action’s Patrick Malone.
  4. Specialist advice was provided on the day by a range of organisations within a “marketplace” style environment covering areas of interest such as career enhancement, benefit entitlement and opportunities for everyone to participate in sports.
  5. For updates on the Department for Communities follow us on Twitter - @CommunitiesNI.
  6. For media enquiries or images please contact the DfC Press Office on 028 9082 3532 or out of office hours contact the duty press officer on 028 9037 8110.




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