Space for Persons with Disabilities

 Advancing inclusive, equitable and sustainable development in space

(Above) Image of the Eagle Nebula, also known as Messier 16 or M16. These towering tendrils of cosmic dust and gas are also named "Pillars of Creation" and are part of an active star-forming region within the nebula and hide newborn stars in their wispy columns. Image credit and copyright: Martin Pugh


- Online event "Sonification: a tool for research, outreach and inclusion" coming in November 2022.
- Consultation for the sonification research project is on-going. If your are interested to participate, please write to
- Are you interested to volunteer for the Space for Persons with Disabilities project? Find out more about online volunteering opportunities  here. Persons with disabilities are encouraged to apply.
- Application for the Space for Persons with Disabilities Fall/Winter 2022 internship has closed. Next round of application will open in spring 2023.


Persons with disabilities include those who have long-term physical, psychosocial, intellectual or sensory impairments which in interaction with various barriers may hinder their full and effective participation in society on an equal basis with others (Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, art. 1). An estimated one billion people, or 15% of the world's population experience some form of disability. 80% of them are in developing countries. One-fifth of the estimated global total, or between 110 million and 190 million people, experience significant disabilities. 

Persons with disabilities, on average as a group, are more likely to experience adverse socioeconomic outcomes such as lower education, poorer health, lower levels of employment, and higher poverty rates than persons without disabilities. According to a research by the International Labor Organization (ILO), economic losses related to the exclusion of persons with disabilities from the labour force ranges from between 3 and 7 per cent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

These numbers may be surprising to many because disability may not always be physically apparent. Disabilities come in various forms and persons may have the disabilities at different points in their life (at birth, or acquired later in life, during education, or while in employment). The number of people with disabilities is expected to increase over the coming decades, due to population aging, longer life expectancy, and an increasing number of injuries resulting from natural disasters, among other factors. Many people will experience a disability at some stage in their lives.

Infographics showing global population of persons with disabilities. An estimated 15% of the world's population have a disability. 46% of persons aged 60 years and over have a disability. One in five women is likely to experience disability during her life. About one in ten children has a disability.

Global population of persons with disabilities. Infographic from UN Disability-Inclusive Communications Guidelines (IASC Guidelines, 2019, Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities in Humanitarian Action)

Due to discrimination, stigma, inadequate policies and programmes, lack of support and assistance, persons with disabilities are often prevented from joining the wider society in education or in employment. The challenges in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) fields are particularly acute. Many barriers to use or access knowledge and resources as effectively as persons without disabilities still exist and prevent the participation of persons with disabilities in research and activities necessary for advancement in the field.

At the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA), we believe that space can contribute in many important ways to achieving disability inclusion and can have transformational effects for persons with disabilities. Building an inclusive society is everyone's responsibility. Only through collective efforts will we successfully build an inclusive and equitable community where we are able to make progress while leaving no one behind.

Our Initiative

Recognizing the rights of persons with disabilities in accordance with The United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) and aligning with the UN Disability Inclusion strategy, UNOOSA embeds the rights of persons with disabilities in its programmes and works towards mainstreaming disability in its activities.

The vision of the Space for Persons with Disabilities project is to promote inclusive, equitable and sustainable development in space by mainstreaming the rights of persons with disabilities, engaging decision-makers to facilitate and assist initiatives targeting inclusivity in space and enhancing prospects for persons with disabilities to advance their education and careers in space through partnerships.

In doing so, the project strives to contribute to achieving SDG 10: Reduced Inequalities, in addition to SDG 4: Quality Education, SDG 8: Decent Work and Economic Growth, and SDG 17: Partnerships for the Goals.

SDG icons. SDG 4: Quality Education, SDG 8: Decent Work and Economic Growth. SDG 11: Reduced Inequalities, SDG 17: Partnerships for the Goals

Our Strategy and Objectives

A integrated and systematic approach to disability inclusion in all areas of operations and programming, internally and externally, is required to ensure that persons with disabilities are not left behind. Building on the vision of achieving sustainable and transformative progress on disability inclusion in space, UNOOSA adopts a two-pronged approach to disability inclusion. First, the Office mainstreams disability in its internal processes and broader work with consideration for disability-related perspectives. At the same time, the Office develops disability-specific programmes through informed and meaningful involvement of persons with disabilities. Through education and public outreach, capacity-building activities and partnerships with stakeholders, the Space for Persons with Disabilities project aims to

  • Advocate for the rights of persons with disabilities;
  • Provide and facilitate capacity-building activities, education and public outreach that address disability inclusion in space-related topics;
  • Foster cooperation and coordinate collaborations between UN organizations, government agencies, academic organizations, private entities and other stakeholders on disability inclusion projects in space;
  • Stimulate discussion about disability mainstreaming among different stakeholder groups of the space community and engage persons with disabilities in the global discussion (nothing about us without us);
  • Raise awareness of the need for new access technologies and the expansion of the capabilities of existing access prototypes, equipment and infrastructure that promote inclusive space-related scientific research and education, and
  • Inspire persons with disabilities to pursue an education and/or career in space.

Our Activities

Online event "Sonfication: a tool for research, outreach and inclusion" (November 2022)

More information coming soon.

Space: a career for all abilities

More information coming soon.

"Pushing Frontiers: Human Spaceflight and Disability" webinar (31 March 2021)

On 31 March 2021, UNOOSA organized a "Pushing Frontiers: Human Spaceflight and Disability" webinar with support from the European Space Agency (ESA). Watch this multi-disciplinary webinar to learn about the ESA Parastronaut Feasibility Project and explore the challenges and opportunities in this emerging field through the lens of technology, engineering, physiology and psychology. Also, be inspired by Eddie Ndopu, a UN SDG advocate and aspiring astronaut.
Click on this  link to learn more about the webinar.
Click on this  link to watch the webinar.

Sonfication: a tool for scientific research and inclusion (consultation in progress)

This is a special report focusing on a particular innovative technology in astronomical research - sonification. The research aims to explore ways in which sonification may contribute to astronomy, and to demonstrate contributions of sonification to scientific research and disability inclusion. The research also aims to identify key challenges that need to be addressed to realise the potential of sonification for disability inclusion in astronomy and suggest policy options for decision makers. To participate in the consultation process, please write to 

Disability inclusion in space (consultation in progress)

To encourage  disability inclusion and accessibility in space science education and profession, UNOOSA invites all stakeholders to share projects, programmes , practices, experiences, lessons learned, policies, and technologies that promote inclusive and accessible space science education and progression in both developing and developed countries.  The information will contribute to the development of a research report to take stock of disability inclusion in space globally and to provide insights on international good practices.To participate in the consultation process, please write to

IAU Inspiring Stars exhibition

The Inspiring Stars exhibition is currently on display at the Vienna International Centre. The exhibition aims to broaden the horizons of children, parents, teachers and astronomers by showcasing assistive research tools and inclusive practices inspiring the love for science and the possibility of contributing to it in spite of apparent hurdles. It aims to elicit a chain reaction of committed engagement for an egalitarian participation of people with disabilities in the field of astronomy. Don't miss it!

International Observance

Why do we mark International Days?

International days and weeks are occasions to educate the public on issues of concern, to mobilize political will and resources to address global problems, and to celebrate and reinforce achievements of humanity. The existence of international days predates the establishment of the United Nations, but the United Nations has embraced them as a powerful advocacy tool.

International Day of Persons with Disabilities

The annual observance of the International Day of Disabled Persons (IDPD) was proclaimed in 1992 by  United Nations General Assembly resolution 47/3. It aims to promote the rights and well-being of persons with disabilities in all spheres of society and development, and to increase awareness of the situation of persons with disabilities in every aspect of political, social, economic and cultural life. IDPD is celebrated on the 3rd of December every year.


3 Dec 2021: International Day of Persons with Disabilities

"Leadership and participation of persons with disabilities toward an inclusive, accessible and sustainable post-COVID-19 world"
Read our special series of interviews "Of Astronauts and Astronomy: Mainstreaming Disability in Space"  here.


3 Dec 2022: International Day of Persons with Disabilities. More information coming soon.

Related observances

  • 4 Jan: World Braille Day
  • 11 Feb: International Day of Women and Girls in Science
  • 21 March: World Down Syndrome Day
  • 2 Apr: World Autism Awareness Day
  • 12 Apr: International Day of Human Space Flight
  • 23 Sep: International Day of Sign Languages
  • 10 Dec: Human Rights Day



How to get involved

Join as an intern

UNOOSA welcomes interns from all over the world to embark on a unique journey of growth and discovery in a multi-cultural and international environment at the UNOOSA office in Vienna, Austria. UNOOSA is dedicated to fostering diversity and inclusion within its workforce, and encourages all students, including students with disabilities, to apply. The Space for Persons with Disabilities internship is a unique opportunity for students to build skills, expand their professional network and gain work experience under the supervision and mentorship of dedicated UN staff members.

Read more about the internship programme and support for applicants with disabilities throughout the application, interview and internship stages here.

Application for the Space for Persons with Disabilities Fall/Winter 2022 internship is open. Please apply through the  UN Careers website.

To view more internships, please visit the  UN Careers website.

Join as an online volunteer

Join as an online UN volunteer to make a difference to society. Please visit the  UNV website for more information.

Become a donor

The Space for Persons with Disabilities project is funded entirely through the generous contributions from our stakeholders. Donor support is crucial to realizing the initiative going forward. If you're interested in supporting disability inclusion in space and accelerating sustainable socio-economic development, then please get in touch with us.

Become a partner

The Space for Persons with Disabilities project is continuously improving its education and outreach efforts and expanding its portfolio of activities. Do you have an interesting idea or project that would engage persons with disabilities? We hope to work with you. Please contact us.

UNOOSA has developed a comprehensive guidance for entities interested in a partnership. Please read this  webpage for more information.

Where can I begin?

Finally, no matter how you're currently involved in space, you can do your part to support disability inclusion by observing basic disability etiquette.

  • As a basic principle, behave in the same courteous and respectful way with persons with disabilities that you would with anyone.
  • Focus on the person, not the impairment or limitations. Appreciate and emphasize what the person can do. Do not make assumptions about what the person can or cannot do.
  • Use people-first language. People-first language emphasizes the person, not the disability, by placing a reference to the person or group before the reference to the disability. For example, we can use expressions such as "children with albinism", "students with dyslexia", and "persons with disabilities". If in doubt, you should ask the person or group how they choose to identify. Click on this PDF document to read about the UN Disability-Inclusive Language Guidelines.
  • Do not ask about a person's impairment unless the person raises it.
  • Do not be afraid to ask questions when you are unsure of what to do.
  • Take the Harvard Disability Implicit Association Test (IAT) to gain greater awareness of your unconscious biases towards disabilities.
  • Educate yourself about disabilities to reduce biases, such as by watching this Disability Sensitivity Training Video.



Persons with disabilities: Persons with disabilities include those who have long-term physical, mental, intellectual or sensory impairments which in interaction with various barriers may hinder their full and effective participation in society on an equal basis with others (Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, art. 1).

Disability inclusion: The meaningful participation of persons with disabilities in all their diversity, the promotion of their rights and the consideration of disability-related perspectives, in compliance with the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

Accessibility: Ensuring that persons with disabilities have access, on an equal basis with others, to the physical environment, to transportation, to information and communications, including information and communications technologies and systems, and to other facilities and services open or provided to the public, both in urban and in rural areas (Convention, art. 9).

Reasonable accommodation: Necessary and appropriate modification and adjustments not imposing a disproportionate or undue burden, where needed in a particular case, to ensure to persons with disabilities the enjoyment or exercise on an equal basis with others of all human rights and fundamental freedoms (Convention, art. 2).

Universal design: The design of products, environments, programmes and services to be usable by all people, to the greatest extent possible, without the need for adaptation or specialized design. "Universal design" shall not exclude assistive devices for particular groups of persons with disabilities where this is needed (Convention, art. 2).

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