New EU Disability Strategies

The proposal being developed by the Commission comes in a more favourable context: the ratification of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities by the EU and all Member States.
Rodolfo Cattani

The European Disability Strategy 2010-2020 is drawing to a close and the European Commission is already working on the development of the strategy that will follow. The previous strategy was developed before the ratification of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (the Convention) by the EU and all Member States. Consequently, it was not a strategy aimed at the full implementation of the Convention. The context is different for the upcoming strategy. The EU and all Member States are now parties to the Convention and the EU has proclaimed the European Pillar of Social Rights and Sustainable Development Goals, on which it is committed to act, and which requires a completely new perspective. The proposal outlines the ways in which the post-2020 Disability Strategy will have to operate and the type of legislative proposals that it should undertake in order to address all the articles of the Convention and fill the gaps left by the current strategy. The proposal draws up a plan for the next decade for the full implementation of the Convention, taking up all the articles of the Convention and all the sections of the Sustainable Development Goals and the European Pillar of Social Rights relevant to disability. The Disability and Inclusion Unit at the European Commission’s Directorate General for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion has until the second half of the next year to propose the post-2020 strategy to the new European Commission to the Commission's new college. The Commission has brought forward legislative proposals with a clear impact on persons with disabilities, but these proposals have not always given rise to sufficiently ambitious policies, as in the case of the European Accessibility Act. Additionally, the regulations on passenger rights have not yet completely eliminated the discrimination of persons with disabilities in the transportation sector and have not substantially improved their accessibility. Finally, it was not possible to make progress on an agreement on the Equal Treatment Directive proposed by the Commission and voted by Parliament but blocked by the Council in 2008.


European Parliament, Brussels



The proposal is based on the following thematic areas:

1) no to discrimination and inequality;

2) full participation and freedom of movement in the EU;

3) guarantee accessibility;

4) eliminate obstacles to quality employment;

5) guarantee quality and inclusive education and training for all;

6) fight precariousness and poverty;

7) no one should be left behind outside the borders of the EU.


Some of the key suggestions for legislative progress in the agenda on disability rights are the following:

1. No to discrimination and inequality:

* adopt legislation that recognizes that the denial of reasonable accommodation in any area of life is a form of discrimination based on disability, revising Directive 2000/78/EC.


2. Full participation and freedom of movement in the EU:

* harmonize disability assessment procedures for people moving from one EU Member State to another and standardize the rapid and regular transferability of equivalent rights and eligibility;

* guarantee the rights of persons with disabilities to political participation and address accessibility to voting in order to facilitate the exercise of the electoral rights of European citizens with disabilities.


3. Guarantee accessibility:

* create a European accessibility authority similar to the United States Access Board to monitor the implementation of EU accessibility legislation;

* adopt legislation that fills in the gaps left by the European Accessibility Act, in order to harmonize the minimum accessibility standards for all aspects of the built environment;

* revise, extend and strengthen the passenger rights of persons with disabilities in the transport system, for example by publishing a new legislative proposal on multimodal transport;

* make access for persons with disabilities a priority in the use of EU investment funds;

* adopt legislation concerning minimum guaranteed standards for procedural regulation and access to alternative forms of information and communication in judicial proceedings;

* invest in research to develop new technologies and assistive devices for persons with disabilities.


4. Eliminate obstacles to quality employment:

* adopt legislation that harmonizes throughout the Union the requirements for the provision of reasonable accommodations for workers with disabilities;

* invest EU funds in training, employment and professional mobility initiatives for persons with disabilities;

* support Member States to guarantee persons with disabilities the right to free choice in the exercise of their working activity, as well as the right to an equal and adequate remuneration;

* support Member States to ensure that Directive 2000/78/EC prohibiting discrimination in employment and occupation is fully implemented in line with the Convention.


5. Guarantee quality and inclusive education and training for all:

* invest in inclusive learning facilities, education and lifelong learning programs to facilitate the transition from school to work;

* ensure the inclusive education of children and youth with disabilities in the European Union school system;

* increase accessibility to the Erasmus Plus Program;

* assist Member States in the training of regular school staff and support for the training of assistants in the classroom.


6. Fight precariousness and poverty:

* adopt administrative measures concerning minimum standards for invalidity benefit levels;

* support Member States in providing more flexible disability benefits and support to protect safety networks against poverty and provide incentives for the employment of persons with disabilities.


7. No one should be left behind outside the borders of the EU:

* promote the rights of persons with disabilities in the EU's external action;

* ensure that candidate and potential candidate countries for EU membership make clear and demonstrable progress in promoting the rights of persons with disabilities.



* create disability contact points in all directions and agencies of the European Commission and in all EU institutions;

* create a Commission for the Rights of Persons with Disabilities including all contact points in order to oversee the implementation of the agenda;

* create an interinstitutional coordination mechanism between the Commission, the Parliament and the Council, as indicated in the recommendations to the EU of the Convention Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in 2015. The heads of these institutions should meet at the beginning of each mandate to discuss the agenda on disability rights;

* provide for sufficient funding for monitoring mechanisms;

* guarantee by law the full involvement of organizations representing persons with disabilities in the implementation of the strategy;

* improve the collection of data on the status and inclusion of persons with disabilities in the Eurostat activity, with particular reference to the disaggregated data on the different types of disabilities.


European Disability forum, logo

Political leaders shall also:

* ratify the Convention's Optional Protocol which provides for procedures to strengthen the protection of the rights of European citizens with disabilities;

* establish a structured dialogue with organizations representing persons with disabilities and their families and prepare a specific budget line to ensure meaningful consultation and participation;

* review the declaration of competence to include all policy areas in which the EU has legislated or adopted soft law measures and update the list of instruments to include all those concerning persons with disabilities;

* address the intersectional discrimination of persons with disabilities belonging to the following social groups: women, children and youth, mothers of children with disabilities, elderly people, people who need more intensive support, deaf-blind people, people with psychosocial, intellectual, cognitive and multiple disabilities, homeless people, ethnic minorities and refugees, LGBTQs, people of different religions and faiths, integrating their rights into all actions of the strategy;

* implement initiatives concerning emerging areas of intervention, such as assistance to refugees and migrants with disabilities, legal capacity, assisted decision-making and personal freedom and security;

* adopt effective measures to ensure that EU institutions, services and initiatives are fully accessible to people with disabilities and that accessibility is systematically guaranteed in accordance with the principle of universal design.



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