Seven notable moments in disability and inclusion in 2023: International Day of People with Disability

Monday, 20 November 2023

2023 has been a huge year of transformation for disability, inclusion, and accessibility. We witnessed groundbreaking moments rise to the forefront, demand change, and capture the world’s attention.

This International Day of People with Disability, we’re giving them the attention they deserve.

International Day of People with Disability is a United Nations observed day held annually on 3 December.

Everyone has the right to play an active role in their society and have a say in the decisions that affect their lives. The 2023 United Nations theme for International Day of People is about involving people with disability in their own future and creating a better, more sustainable world for all.

In celebration of International Day of People with Disability, we are rounding up seven notable moments in disability and inclusion in 2023. Take a moment to hear their voices, listen to their stories, and then join them in action.

What did the world of inclusion and accessibility look like in 2023?

Dylan Alcott brings disability to TV advertising

How many TV advertisements can you name that feature people with disability? One? Two? Maybe three if you think really hard?

Dylan Alcott AO is on a mission to change this.

This year, the Olympian, radio personality, and motivational speaker took on disability representation in the media to create an “unignorable ad break.”

This master plan is all part of the Shift 20 Initiative, which was unveiled in September. The initiative asks Australian advertisers to increase disability representation, inclusion, and accessibility in their media. Alcott wants brands to create real stories that showcase real people with disability doing everyday things – whether that’s eating, travelling, managing money, buying clothes, or wearing make-up.

A group of actors with disability from different advertising campaigns pose together for the Shift 20 Initiative.
Ten of Australia’s biggest brands came together in support of disability representation. They swapped out scenes in their advertising to include a person with disability.

Lewis Capaldi’s fans embrace Tourette’s syndrome

This year, singer Lewis Capaldi took to the stage and performed a show that was so memorable it captivated people across the globe – but it wasn’t quite the way he intended his performance to go.

Lewis Capaldi lives with Tourette’s syndrome. Throughout the show, his tics (involuntary and sudden movements or sounds) were under the spotlight. He presented the realities of living with a disability, and the reception was incredible.

Fans rose up in support and understanding. Rather than complain their top dollar was being spent on a different show to their expectations, they embraced Capaldi’s disability and proved it did not stand in the way of his success.

The media’s power to influence perceptions towards disability is unrivalled. And it’s clear how personalities are using their voice and power to positively impact disability representation and awareness.

More and more, the arts industry is creating environments where people with disability feel comfortable and safe to participate and be themselves.

Throughout the last two years, Australian comedian Luke Kidgell has welcomed people with tics and Tourette’s syndrome to his show. Rather than make a joke at their expense, he thanks them for coming and welcomes them to take part in a genuine, but often hilarious, conversation.

With their permission, these realistic interactions go viral on TikTok—again, and again, and again—building education and awareness around what it means to live with tics.

Tech accessibility initiatives

Representation goes hand-in-hand with accessibility. It’s a huge step forward to see artists and brands creating content that is representative. But if that content is not accessible, then the benefits are slashed.

This year, tech companies have taken significant leaps towards improving accessibility. Initiatives like Microsoft’s AI for Accessibility program and Apple’s continued commitment to inclusive design are leading the way in accessible design and proving to the world the value of inclusivity.

Technology forms an integral part of our everyday communication and connection with others. By increasing access to technology, you open up a whole new world of possibility for people with disability.

GIPHY, a popular GIF platform, has spent the year rolling out human-written alt-text captions for its most popular content, while Netflix launched custom-design subtitles, allowing users to change the font, colour, and appearance of on-screen captions.

The Year of Accessible Tourism in Queensland

The Queensland Government has named 2023 as the Year of Accessible Tourism. Tourism experiences should be easy, desirable, and welcoming to all, and tourism businesses have a huge role to play in making this a reality—for both employees and visitors.

The year has marked an important opportunity to spark change and create opportunities for Queensland tourism businesses. The Government, with the support of local organisations, has launched a number of initiatives and campaigns to raise awareness, build infrastructure, install technology, and grow the accessible tourism industry.

Disability royal commission marks promising possibilities for change

The disability royal commission kicked off in April 2019 and this year we saw the final report hit our tables in September. The report lays out over 200 recommendations, which equates to 12 volumes and 5000 pages. These recommendations span across how to ensure a more inclusive and just society that supports people with disability.

The report has been labelled a turning point towards a fully inclusive and de-segregated Australia.

Some key recommendations are:

  • setting up a disability rights act
  • working towards de-segregated workforce, education, and housing systems
  • establishing a First Nations disability forum.

These recommendations propose a vision of a promising future with meaningful change if action is prioritised.

The Brisbane 2032 Olympic and Paralympic Games Legacy Strategy

In November, the Brisbane 2032 Olympic and Paralympic Games Legacy Strategy was released, with plans to advance accessibility and empower people with disability.

The vision is that by 2042, we will live in an inclusive, more sustainable and connected society, with more opportunities for everyone in life.

The plan includes projects to advance sport and event infrastructure, grow universal accessibility in living and transport, increase access to facilities, and create more pathways for people with disability to participate in sport and reach their potential.

Keivonn Montreal Woodard makes history at the Emmys

The ten-year-old actor made Emmy history when he scored a nomination for Outstanding Guest Actor in a Drama Series for his role in The Last of Us. He is the first Black Deaf actor and the second Deaf actor to ever be nominated for an Emmy.

In the show, Woodard’s character, Sam, is Deaf and communicates using both American Sign Language and by writing down messages with a pen and erasable pad. It doesn’t take long for the characters to adjust to this small language barrier, showing how easy it can be to communicate with someone who is Deaf.

During the production, Woodard had an American Sign Language interpreter shadowing him, and a lot of the cast also chose to learn sign language in their own time.

Where to next?

Let’s create change this International Day of People with Disability

2023 was a whirlwind of change, excitement, and possibility, but we are not at the end of our journey yet.

We all have a role to play in creating a world where people with disability are included, valued, welcomed, and embraced.

This International Day of People with Disability, how will you show up and be part of history? The next step is up to you.

EPIC Assist is your local disability employment service

EPIC Assist has been helping people with a disability, injury, mental health condition, or health condition find and keep a job they love for over 30 years. We believe everyone has a right to meaningful employment. We are here to raise the voices of people with disability so their dreams, passions, ideas, and skills can be heard and celebrated.

If you are looking for help finding work, get in touch with EPIC Assist today to find out if our Disability Employment Services (DES) program can help you.