Community Mobilization for Public Education in Rehabilitation
Mr. Philip Yuen
Secretary, Joint Council for the Physically and Mentally Disabled HK
Rehabilitation Chief Officer, Hong Kong Council of Social Service
Just before the close of the International Decade of Disabled Persons 1983-1992, the United Nations announced to set aside December 3 the International Day of Disabled Persons (IDDP) with a view to arouse public attention toward the common mission of advancing the “full participation and equality” of people with disabilities in different countries all over the world.
In response to this meaningful appeal, the Joint Council for the Physically and Mentally Disabled Hong Kong (Joint Council) has since 1993 joined hands with the Government, the rehabilitation sector and most importantly, the 18 District Councils and other community organizations in launching commemorative activities for IDDP annually.
Promotion of Public Awareness toward People with Disabilities
In Hong Kong, the public education programme on disability is mainly steered by a sub-committee of the Rehabilitation Advisory Committee under the auspices of the Government’s Health, Welfare and Food Bureau (HWFB). A cross-sector strategy
has been adopted to encourage the initiatives of different disciplines and rehabilitation NGOs in promoting a positive image of people with disabilities, and various publicity and public education activities thus planned would be supported where possible by a HWFB’s designated fund.
The annual celebration of IDDP in Hong Kong is recognized as a major event not only in terms of its international significance, but also its achievement in mobilizing the participation of the non-rehabilitation sector and especially the District Councils of all 18 administrative districts. Over the decade, the Government has sponsored about 12% of the HWFB’s designated fund for the IDDP central and district activities, which means for HK$7 million (US$0.9 million) in total.
Community Mobilization for IDDP
Since the very beginning, we in Hong Kong have realized that the IDDP celebration is a good focal point for drawing the general public’s awareness toward people with disabilities and the critical success factor is a continued commitment of the community leaders at the grassroots level. To convert those not yet converted, the Joint Council has made much effort in persuading the District Councilors, who are opinion leaders of the neighborhood, to be involved in the IDDP celebrations so as to win over their support for the disability endeavors and further, to help promote the message of “A Society for All” in their respective communities.
An Organizing Committee for the central celebration of IDDP set up under the Joint Council has served as the driving force for such mobilization work. Its composition is wide enough, with representatives from all 18 districts and related Government departments including Health, Welfare and Food Bureau, Social Welfare Department, Education Department, and Home Affairs Department.
Today, we are proud that a network of IDDP district committees formed under or linked closely with the 18 District Councils has been well established and their ownership of the campaign has been consolidated.
Central Celebration of IDDP
A special logo was designed for our IDDP celebrations: two pieces of human-shaped jigsaw puzzle standing on a balanced scale in front of the globe. It means for each of us with different strengths and weaknesses, and the interlocking red and yellow jigsaw pieces represent two groups of people – abled and disabled – both vital to the
building of a complete world and equally important as symbolized by the scale they stand on.
As a highlight of this territory-wide event, the Joint Council has organized central IDDP celebration activities in early December annually. In the first year 1993, more than a thousand participants with and without disabilities from the 18 districts assembled a super Jigsaw Puzzle with 3,200 pieces totaling an area of 1,200 square meters. It followed with other creative gimmicks such as a giant Family Tree hanging thousands of concern card in 1994 and a new Guinness Record of the longest Dancing Dragon in 1997, all by people with and without disabilities from the 18 districts as well. Every year, a top Government official was invited to be our guest of honor and the opening ceremony was well attended with heads of relevant Government departments and Districts Councils.
Two other central IDDP celebration activities have been with us over the decade to promote the inclusiveness of people with disabilities in the society. First, with the support of all major public transport companies, a Free Ride Day was held annually to let persons with disabilities and their carers to use different transport facilities on a complimentary basis. Second, under the sponsorship of Ocean Park, a Fun Day with free admission for 4,000 persons with disabilities and their families to enjoy the amusement facility was organized each year. These initiatives are greatly welcomed by the disabled community and have become the indispensable components of our IDDP celebration.
Celebration of IDDP in 18 Districts
Apart from joining the central activities, the 18 IDDP district committees formed under or linked with the respective District Councils have been actively organizing their own commemorative activities to arouse public concern and acceptance for people with disabilities, highlight their abilities and social contributions, encourage mutual interactions for better integration and eliminate misunderstandings.
The major achievement of this district network is its capability to involve the non-rehabilitation sector in the planning and implementation of local IDDP activities
at the community level. Schools, children and youth centres, residents associations, women groups, commercial organizations and many others have been the targets of mobilization all along. The influence and commitment of District Councils are, of course, crucial enough to make the task a better success.
Roughly estimated, there have been more than 300,000 people participated in the various meaningful and creative programmes initiated by our 18 district committees over these years. Undoubtedly, without their staunch support we would not have been able to reach so deep and wide at the grassroots.
thThis December, we would be jointly celebrating the 10 anniversary of IDDP and the
conclusion of Asian and Pacific Decade of Disabled Persons 1993-2002. About 3,000 people with and without disabilities from the 18 districts would be mobilized to participate in a tree planting activity to mark our shared vision of making Hong Kong a more inclusive society.
Public education is a long and lasting task. The annual celebration of IDDP, and the manner we organized it, has demonstrated to be effective in enhancing public awareness and acceptance toward people with disabilities. However, disability discrimination still exists and people with disabilities might hardly enjoy the same rights and equal opportunities as their non-disabled counterparts. We need to keep on our efforts to win over the support of those who have not the experience of direct contacts with disabled persons. When most people feel proud to have a friend with disabilities, our mission of a “Society for All” is truly at sight.