International Day of People with Disabilities: Don’t Underestimate Me

Gemma Muir

03 Dec, 2018

Globally, one billion people have a disability, and 80 per cent live in developing countries.[i]


Some of the biggest barriers preventing these rights from being realised are the attitudes and misconceptions of others. People with disabilities commonly report that people without disabilities often have untrue low expectations of them and what they can do. These misconceptions are disempowering and contribute to exclusion and inequality.

To help break down these barriers and to celebrate International Day of People with Disabilities, this playful video highlights the stories of people with disabilities who have been underestimated and are defying these low expectations.

The experience of underestimation is common.

Jahid from Bangladesh is finishing a Master of Climate Change. But because of his physical impairment, people doubted that he’d be able to study.

“In Bangladesh, other people think that people with disabilities should not go and study… they say ‘what are the positive things to send them to school? It’s a waste of money, it’s a waste of time.’ So there is a misconception.”

An from Vietnam faced low expectations from others as well. “People around me would say ‘you are disabled, you are nothing, you are useless’. And I still remember one of my uncles he told me ‘when you’re older no one will want you. You will never get married. You’re a useless person.”

An has gone on to defy the expectations of those who doubted her. “There was a label on me that ‘you’ll never have a husband’ and now I have a husband and my baby… I’m so proud!”

Melanie is from the Philippines and wanted to be a teacher. She also happens to be Deaf. She studied hard and got her degree. However when she applied for jobs, she was told she couldn’t be a teacher because she couldn’t hear.

“When I applied for a job the principle said, ‘no you can’t do this, you’re Deaf.’”

Despite this, Melanie, went on to be a teacher “…they saw my degree, they saw that I was qualified. I did my interview in sign, I had lesson plans prepared for what I would teach and they accepted me. I got the job!”

Like Jahid, An and Melanie, people with disabilities are able to learn, love and communicate just like everyone else.

International Day of People with Disabilities gives us an opportunity to come together across the globe to raise awareness and promote action around the rights of people with disabilities and their full inclusion in society. This year the UN theme is “empowering persons with disabilities and ensuring inclusiveness and equality.”

Achieving this vision requires breaking down the attitudes, beliefs and assumptions that prevent people with disabilities from being able to fully and effectively participate in society on an equal basis with others.

We all have a role to play in breaking down barriers and creating a more just and inclusive world. This starts with changing our attitudes and challenging our misconceptions. Don’t let your expectations stop people with disabilities reaching their potential.


[i] World Health Organization & World Bank. (2011). World Report on Disability Geneva: World Health Organization.. Each and every person with disabilities has the right to be treated equally, to be included and to be afforded the same opportunities to achieve their full potential.

  • Gemma Muir
    Gemma Muir

    Gemma Muir is CBM Australia’s Advocacy and Communications Officer. She has a background in advocacy and communications in the international development sector, with a particular interest in inclusive development and specific expertise in gender equality and disability. 

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