There is no doubt that the crisis has turned up to be more than an economic crisis. It’s also a social and human rights crisis and the political leaders of Europe should look for a European coherent strategy and a human rights way out of the crisis. One year ago, the European disability movement met the three presidents of the European Commission, the European Parliament and the European Council in order to discuss how to raise the profile of disability and human rights in the EU agenda. The State of the Union on Disability aimed to ensure that the European institutions work together towards the implementation of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), the first human rights treaty that EU concluded in 2010. It promotes the full participation of persons with disabilities in all aspects of society, including women and children with disabilities and their families.
Recognising the important role of the European Commission in the implementation of the CRPD both in terms of its own internal work, but also in shaping new disability friendly legislation, policies and programmes, last October EDF organised a meeting with the Commission’s Director Generals in order to stress out the necessity of mainstreaming disability in all EU policies. The meeting took place after the acceptance of EDF’s proposal by the Secretary General of the Commission, Catherine Day. During this meeting, the Secretary General of the Commission also agreed with EDF’s suggestion to repeat the meeting in 2013 to look at the report that the EU has to submit to the UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities on the progress it has made concerning the rights of its citizens with disabilities, since it concluded the CRPD.
In view of the EU report, right after the European Day of Persons with Disabilities, on the 5th of December 2012, EDF organised in the European Parliament, the 3rd European Parliament of Persons with Disabilities. Following the 1st and the 2nd meeting in 1993 and 2003 accordingly, the event gathered more than 450 delegates from organisations representing persons with disabilities from all over Europe, as well as European Parliament leaders, MEPs and EU decision-makers in order to discuss how Europe can ensure the protection of the rights of persons with disabilities in this time of crisis. This meeting showed to the EU leaders that there is just one response to face the crisis striking Europe: more democracy, more participation and more unified voice. There should be a dialogue on the measures that affect our lives and especially the lives of the most vulnerable: women, youth, children, people in need of intensive support, as well as those living in institutions.
There is no doubt that 2012 was a very important year for the disability movement. However, we believe that the most important year is always the one to come. EDF has strong expectations on Europe’s proposal for a European Social Investment pack that would invest in employment of persons with disabilities, the development of services for independent living and the development and renovation of infrastructure and services accessible for all.
Having repeatedly stressed that accessibility is a prerequisite for the full participation of persons with disabilities in all aspects of life, recently EDF welcomed the European Commission’s legislative proposal on the accessibility of public bodies’ websites as a first positive step towards the removal of all barriers to access internet products and services in the internal market. This year, we expect that the European Parliament and the Council of the EU will work closely with the disability movement to ensure that the final text will be even more far reaching and will include firm obligations for all public websites as well as websites providing services to the public. EDF is looking forward to working with the European Commission for its implementation in order to make a real difference in the lives of Europeans with Disabilities.
We believe that each good and service should be accessible by everyone and persons with disabilities cannot be an exception to that. EDF has long stressed for the adoption of an ambitious European Accessibility Act covering a wide range of goods and services, including a clear and extensive definition of accessibility as well as common accessibility requirements across the EU. To this end, EDF expects that the New Year will view the European Commission coming forward with a strong proposal for legislation ensuring the participation of persons with disabilities in society on equal terms with other citizens. Next autumn, EDF also expects the realization of the 2nd State of the Union on Disability, as it was agreed and promised to the disability movement by the three EU Presidents in the first meeting.
In 2013, the EU has a lot of chances to improve the lives of its citizens with disabilities and it shouldn’t miss any of them. We deserve to live in a society, in which all citizens have equal access. A society which works according to human rights principles. A society that doesn’t allow anyone to be left out because of their disability. A society in which persons with disabilities take active part in decisions affecting their lives. ‘Nothing about us without us’ is not just the slogan of the European disability movement; it’s the way of re-building a stronger Europe founded on human and social rights, as we are heading towards the European Year of Citizens.
Lila Sylviti | EDF Communication Officer | firstname.lastname@example.org