29 May 2011 /// This weekend the 15th Annual General Assembly of the European Disability Forum gathered the whole disability movement in Budapest. Among all the important topics, the 200 participants focused on how to make sure the European Union will guarantee freedom of movement for all persons with disabilities.
“Collaboration, consultation and involvement- the fundamentals of a democratic society, the fundamentals of Europe! In this trying time, governments need to remember that they have to include us in all the decisions about us: Nothing about us without us.” Reminded Yannis Vardakastanis, EDF President. This, he said is one of the strong messages we should carry out from this annual assembly.
Free movement of persons with disabilities was the second important discussion point. The European Union says it guarantees freedom of movement for all of its citizens. But persons with disabilities still face major difficulties when travelling or going to study, work and livein another European country. The disability movement discussed and proposed the necessary measures to make sure the EU will improve the lives of people with disabilities. The important issue of accessibility to all has been raised from a human rights perspective: Rodolfo Cattani, EDF Executive Member stressed “There are diverse needs for persons with disabilities, in relation to the diverse aspect of accessibility. Needs are not universal. But rights are universal. And nobody can enjoy human rights, to which they do not have access.”
>The European Accessibility Act
Total accessibility implies a binding European Accessibility Act. Overall, the issue of accessibility is vital as it is essential for participation in society. For this reason, a seminar on accessibility and the present legislation in the EU was held with the support of the Hungarian Public Foundation for the Equal Opportunities of Persons with Disabilities. On this issue, the European Commission will present in 2012 a European Accessibility Act setting out a general framework for accessibility in relation to goods and services. The only acceptable way is to include and listen to the disability movement when preparing this Act.
The disability movement wants the European Accessibility Act to take theform of a Directive. This would clearly establish the requirement of accessibility on the relevant sectors, but leave Member States sufficient freedom to take into account their national characteristics.
A further tool to really improve free movement would be the European mobility card. This would ease travelling between Member States as the holder of this card would be granted the same status and benefits anywhere in Europe. In this sense, the European Accessibility Act will become the instrument and the mobility card a tool for granting free movement to persons with disabilities.
>Crisis: feeling the brunt
The crisis is hitting us hard in Europe. Austerity measures are now causing alarming situations for persons with disabilities. Yannis Vardakastanis vigorously claimed “We are not responsible for this crisis and the disability movement will fight to ensure that 80 million persons with disabilities are not the first to pay!”
Aurélien Daydé |M +32 485 64 39 93 | firstname.lastname@example.org