Today, on the International Day for Persons with Disabilities, the Canadian Working Group on HIV and Rehabilitation (CWGHR) highlights the importance of recognizing the unique challenges faced by people living with episodic disabilities and notes the significance of technology in supporting inclusion.
This year, the theme for the International Day for Persons with Disabilities (IDPwD) is ‘Sustainable Development: The Promise of Technology’. The promise of technology resonates strongly with all persons living with disabilities, including those living with episodic disabilities and their employers, who may be willing to create an enabling working environment, but may be lost as to how to go about doing it.
Often, when people refer to disabilities, the first thoughts that come to mind relate to permanent disabilities that are relatively static in nature. The concept of “episodic disability” is a new way of understanding the lived experience of the many Canadians with chronic health conditions that are marked by fluctuating periods and degrees of wellness and disability. Scientific, medical and rehabilitation gains are increasingly changing what might have been fatal conditions to chronic life-long illnesses. The term episodic disability currently encompasses at least 27 different chronic illness conditions (see Furrie, 2010). For example, HIV/AIDS, multiple sclerosis (MS), arthritis, lupus and some forms of cancer may be seen as chronic but episodically disabling conditions for many people.
Since 2001, CWGHR has been working at the national level on issues specific to episodic disabilities, with a focus on research, policies and programs that impact health and quality of life, social inclusion, employment and income security for people living with episodic disabilities. More often than not, people living with episodic disabilities want to enter the workforce and remain there once already working, but many are unable to do so without some form of accommodation from their employers. At times, those accommodations may be technological in nature, for example, remote access to workstations, or teleconferencing services to facilitate working from home.
Today marks 22 years of the annual observance of IDPwD since its proclamation by the United Nations General Assembly through resolution 47/3. The observance of the Day aims to promote an understanding of disability issues and mobilize support for the dignity, rights and well-being of people living with disabilities. It also seeks to increase awareness of gains to be derived from the inclusion of persons with disabilities in every aspect of political, social, economic and cultural life.
As we cross the intersection between HIV and disability this week (with World AIDS Day having been observed on December 1st), CWGHR affirms its commitment to ensuring that the promise of technology is fulfilled for people living with HIV and other episodic conditions.