EESC welcomes EU Incapacity Rights Technique however identifies weaknesses that ought to be addressed
On March 3rd, the European Commission presented an ambitious strategy for the rights of people with disabilities 2021-2030 to ensure their full and equal participation in society with others in the EU and beyond, in accordance with the Treaty on the Functioning of the Establishing the European Union and the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union, equality and non-discrimination as cornerstones of EU policy. People with disabilities have the right to participate in all areas of life like everyone else. Although the last few decades have seen advances in access to health care, education, employment, leisure activities and participation in political life, many obstacles remain. It is time to step up European action.
The new strategy builds on its predecessor, the European Disability Strategy 2010-2020, and contributes to the implementation of European Pillar of Social Rights for which an action plan will be adopted by the Commission this week, which will serve as a compass for employment and social policy in Europe. The strategy supports the implementation of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities by the EU and its Member States at both EU and national level.
Vice-President for Values and Transparency, Vera Jourová, said: “Protecting the rights of people with disabilities must be at the center of our efforts, including in our response to the coronavirus. People with disabilities are hardest hit by the COVID-19 crisis. We must strive to ensure that the quality of life of people with disabilities is improved and that their rights are guaranteed! “
“Since its inception, the European project has focused on removing barriers, in line with its vision of a Union of Diversity. However, many people with disabilities continue to encounter obstacles, for example when looking for work or using public transport, ”said Equal Opportunities Officer Helena Dalli. She added: “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 must guarantee all citizens so that they can flourish and enjoy life to the full. “
Promotion of equal participation and non-discrimination
The ten-year strategy sets out important initiatives around initiatives three main themes:
- EU rights: People with disabilities have the same right as other EU citizens to move to another country or to participate in political life. Building on the experience of the pilot project, which is ongoing in eight countries, the European Commission will propose a European Disability Card for all EU countries by the end of 2023, which will facilitate mutual recognition of disability status between Member States and help people with disabilities exercise their right to freedom of movement. The Commission will also work closely with Member States to ensure the participation of people with disabilities in the electoral process in 2023.
- Independent living and autonomy: People with disabilities have the right to live independently and to choose where and with whom to live. To support independent living and inclusion in the community, the Commission will develop guidelines and launch an initiative to improve social services for people with disabilities.
- Non-Discrimination and Equal Opportunities: The strategy aims to protect people with disabilities from all forms of discrimination and violence. It aims to ensure equal opportunities and access to justice, education, culture, sport and tourism. Equal access to all health services and workplaces must also be guaranteed.
It is impossible to participate in society on an equal footing with others if your environment – physical or virtual – is inaccessible. Thanks to a solid EU legal framework (e.g. European law on accessibility, Internet Accessibility Policy, Passenger rights) access has improved, but many areas are still not covered by EU rules and there are differences in the accessibility of buildings, public spaces and some modes of transport. Therefore, in 2022 the European Commission will set up a European Resource Center “AccessibleEU” to build a knowledge database with information and best practices on accessibility in all sectors.
Implementation of the strategy: close cooperation with EU countries and mainstreaming in internal and external politics
Realizing the ambitions of the strategy requires a strong commitment from all Member States. The EU countries are key actors in the implementation of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. The Commission will set up the Disability Platform, which will bring together the national authorities responsible for the implementation of the Convention, disability organizations and the Commission in order to support the implementation of the strategy and to improve cooperation and exchanges in the implementation of the Convention. The platform will have an extensive online presence and ensure the continuity of activities throughout the year. People with disabilities will be part of the dialogue and process to implement the Strategy for the Rights of People with Disabilities 2021-2030.
The Commission will mainstream disability issues into all EU policies and major initiatives. Since the rights of people with disabilities do not stop at Europe’s borders, the Commission will promote the rights of people with disabilities around the world. With this strategy, the EU will strengthen its role as an advocate for the rights of people with disabilities. The EU will use instruments such as technical assistance and financial programs, support from EU delegations, political dialogues and work in multilateral fora to support partner countries in their efforts to implement the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and guidelines on how to implement the SDGs in a disability-friendly manner.
As announced by President von der Leyen, Strategy for the Rights of People with Disabilities 2021-2030 contributes to building the Union of Equality, together with the LGBTIQ equality strategy 2020-2025, the EU Action Plan Against Racism 2020-2025-20, the Equality strategy 2020-2025 and the EU strategic framework for Roma.
The United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD), adopted by the United Nations in 2006, was a breakthrough for the rights of people with disabilities: all member states have acceded to it and it is the first human rights convention to be concluded by the EU. The contracting parties to the Convention are obliged to promote, protect and fulfill the human rights of all people with disabilities and to guarantee their legal equality. With this strategy, the Commission provides the framework to support the measures of the EU and the Member States to implement the UN CRPD.
The European Disability Strategy 2010-2020 paved the way to a barrier-free Europe, for example with guidelines like this European law on accessibilitywhich requires key products and services such as phones, computers, e-books, banking services and electronic communications to be accessible and usable for people with a variety of disabilities. EU passenger rights ensure that people with disabilities have access to road, air, rail or sea transport. The EU has also played a pioneering role in promoting the inclusion and full participation of people with disabilities around the world through international cooperation activities.
Communication: Equality Union: Strategy for the Rights of People with Disabilities 2021-2030
Easy to read version: Strategy for the Rights of People with Disabilities 2021-2030
Questions and Answers: Strategy for the Rights of People with Disabilities 2021-2030
Factsheet: Strategy for the Rights of People with Disabilities 2021-2030
Easily readable messages: The European Commission puts forward a new strategy to protect the rights of people with disabilities
More information on EU initiatives for people with disabilities