Today is the day we celebrate over one billion people on the planet that are living with some form of disability and the contributions they make.  

The United Nations has declared December 3rd the International Day of Persons with Disabilities.  Of the over seven billion people living on earth, more than one billion, or one in seven, live with some form of physical or mental challenge or some type of chronic disease.  UN stats say that more than 80 percent of disabled people live in a developing country.  100 million disabled persons are children and they are four times more likely than non-disabled children to experience violence.  50 percent of disabled persons around the world cannot afford health care.

The Coordinator of the Airdrie Abilities Society, Barb Woolsey realizes the situation isn't as grim for people living with disabilities in Airdrie and area.  She says she believes society is becoming more accepting and welcoming for people with disabilities.

"I think it is, with some definitely.  When you see them or when they're out in the community, people who come across them every day start to realize they're really unique people.  I think we're getting more and more adapted to what disabilities are.  Some people don't fully understand.  Even kids, I see looking at the ones we work with and I say to them, 'just smile,' and they smile and usually the smile comes back from the kids so it's really, really cool to see that."

Woolsey says in her work with the disabled the greatest thing she's noticed is how much love they have.

"I see a whole lot of love come from them and a lot of love pours out in and around our space.  We come together and it's been a great opportunity to love over them for where they are and not for where they're not.  Everyone has a disability, I always think and when you see it, you see it and when you don't, you don't.  Everybody is classified in my life as equal."

The Airdrie Abilities Society works with people from the city as well as surrounding communities including Carstairs, Beiseker, Irricana and Crossfield.  Woolsey says they try to draw the community together for social events and activities including painting, music programs and cooking.   The society's mandate is to promote equal opportunities to support and demonstrate the strengths and abilities of persons with special needs.

Woolsey has a special place in her heart for people who live with disabilities.  "They are the most precious people on this earth because if it wasn't for them, people wouldn't see the differences in life.  Don't be afraid of them.  They're human.  They're just like us.  The more you get to know them, the more you understand them."



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