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Discrimination and stigma are still barriers to the full participation of persons with disabilitiesGetty

More than one billion people globally – around 15% of the world's population – have some form of disability. Yet the world's largest minority group faces many barriers to inclusion in key aspects of society, including discrimination and stigma.

The International Day of Persons with Disabilities, marked on 3 December annually, aims to promote empowerment, inclusion and access to reduce inequalities in society. The day is celebrated internationally to increase public awareness, acceptance and understanding of people with disability.

"We mark this year's International Day of Persons with Disabilities in the wake of the adoption of the ambitious 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. This global blueprint for action summons us to 'leave no one behind'," said United Nations secretary-general Ban Ki-moon.

The rates of disability are increasing globally, in part due to ageing populations and an increase in chronic health conditions. Yet despite this, discrimination and stigma are still barriers to the full participation of persons with disabilities to employment, education and social protection. Barriers include the high costs of health services, limited health services, physical inaccessibility to buildings and public transport and mistreatment by healthcare workers.

The right to participate in public life is essential in creating democracies, active citizenship and reducing inequalities in societies. The International Day of Persons with Disabilities aims to promote real opportunities for everyone.

The focus for International Day of Persons with Disabilities in 2015 is on making cities inclusive and accessible for all, improving disability data and statistics and including persons with invisible disabilities in society and development. The day has been marked around the world since 1992.

Initiatives for the day began in 1976, when the UN General Assembly declared 1981 as the International Year of Disabled Persons – which called on all states to focus on equal opportunities for persons with disabilities. In 2006, the UN General Assembly adopted the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, an international human rights treaty.