Strategy for the rights of persons with disabilities tabled

The Commission will propose a European Disability Card to help these people enjoy their right of free movement

Photo: Maria Koleva At their Freedom Drive in 2019 hundreds of disabled people in wheelchairs and their friends gathered in Brussels to voice a strong appeal for independent and free life.

The Commission presented on Wednesday a ten-year Strategy for the Rights of Persons with Disabilities to ensure their full participation in society, on an equal basis with others. As reported, persons with disabilities are around one fifth of all Europeans and they have the right to take part in all areas of life.

The Commission says that it is time to scale up European action, as although the past decades brought progress in access to healthcare, education, employment, recreation activities and participation in political life, many obstacles still remain.

The new strategy contributes to the implementation of the European Pillar of Social Rights for which an Action Plan the Commission adopts this week. The document props up implementation by the EU and its Member States of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities at both EU and national levels.

The protection of the rights of persons with disabilities has to be at the centre of our efforts, including in our response to the coronavirus, said Vice-President for Values and Transparency Vera Jourová. People with disabilities have been among those hit hardest by the Covid-19 crisis, she stressed adding that “We must strive to ensure that people with disabilities quality of life improves and their rights are guaranteed!”

Commissioner for Equality, Helena Dalli pointed out that since its inception, the European project focused on removing barriers, in line with its vision of a Union in Diversity.

“However, many persons with disabilities continue to face obstacles, for instance when looking for a job or using public transport. People with disabilities should be able to participate equally in all areas of life. Living independently, learning in an inclusive environment, and working under appropriate standards are conditions that we need to ensure to all citizens to enable them to flourish and live life to the fullest,” Commissioner Dalli specified.

The 2021-2030 strategy sets out key initiatives around three main themes. Persons with disabilities have the same right as other EU citizens to move to another country or to participate in political life. By the end of 2023 the Commission will propose a European Disability Card for all EU countries that will facilitate mutual recognition of disability status between Member States, helping disabled people enjoy their right of free movement.

The executive will work closely with Member States to ensure the participation of persons with disabilities in the electoral process in 2023.

The strategy also emphasises that persons with disabilities have the right to live independently and choose where and with whom they want to live.

The Commission will develop guidance and launch an initiative to improve social services for persons with disabilities.

The strategy objective is also to protect persons with disabilities from any form of discrimination and violence and aims to ensure equal opportunities in and access to justice, education, culture, sport and tourism. Equal access must also be guaranteed to all health services and employment, the document read.

The Commission will launch a European resource centre ‘AccessibleEU' in 2022, to build a knowledge base of information and good practices on accessibility across sectors.

According to the Commission, delivering on the strategy's ambitions will require a strong commitment from all Member States as they are key actors in the implementation of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

The EC will establish the Disability Platform, bringing together national authorities responsible for implementation of the Convention, organisations of persons with disabilities and the Commission to support implementation of the strategy and to enhance cooperation and exchange on implementing the Convention. It will have an ‘all-inclusive’ online presence and ensure continuity of activities throughout the year.

Persons with disabilities will be part of the dialogue and part of the process of implementing this strategy. The executive body will incorporate disability matters into all EU policies and major initiatives and will also promote the rights of persons with disabilities globally.

 

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