Disability Intergroup: strong support for EU Disability Card

19 December 2018

On the 28 November, MEP Jana Žitňanská, MEP Olga Sehnalová and MEP Brando Benifei hosted an event about the pilot of the EU Disability Card.

The conference counted with the participation of the European Commission, national ministries, disability organisations and disability advocates.

MEP Brando Benifei opened the event by stating that the EU disability card needs to be an inclusive instrument that can be used all across the EU. He added that for this to happen we need political commitment, financial resources and continued dialogue between all stakeholders.

The opening was followed by a panel presenting the experience of two Member States that participated in the pilot program: Belgium and Finland.

Gauthier Coccle, from the Belgian Ministry of Social Affairs explained that there were 5 institutions involved in the pilot. They distributed 27 000 cards and 200 providers participated. Collaboration was voluntary, as there was no accompanying legislation.

He added that there was an ongoing awareness campaign to present and explain advantages of the card to users and providers. This was an accessible campaign, which included an accessible website, several languages and easy-to-read materials.

He summarised the best practices and learnings, emphasising collaboration with organisations of persons with disabilities and civil society and the need for good coordination between different institutions dealing with disability.

Petra Rantamäki, from Vammaiskortti- the issuing organisation for the Card in Finland – re-asserted the need for collaboration with organisations of persons with disabilities, and the importance to have a coordinating organisation.

She stated that there were more than 5 000 cards issued and 150 partners including the national railway company and national movie theatre organisation.

She further asserted the importance of an awareness campaign: a tour around Finland to promote the Card also in remote regions, and a social media campaign.

The event counted with the testimony of Pierre Gyselinck, a user of the EU Disability Card from Belgium. He started by saying that more providers need to recognise the card, as the experience is uneven. It brings added benefit, but more needs to be done in terms of accessibility and inclusion. He reminded that the card is optional, not mandatory and that not all persons with disabilities will want the card.

Catherine Naughton, Director of the European Disability Forum, present the recommendations of the Forum. She started by saying that EDF and its members consider it an important initiative, even if it’s only in pilot phase. She also explained that many citizens with disabilities had contacted the EDF, to know about a possible extension to their countries.

She concluded that it is a step forward on the EU’s promise of freedom of movement, which is still not a reality for many persons with disabilities.

She added the positive, if unexpected effects: innovation, partnerships with service providers, and awareness raising on accessibility.

Inmaculada Placencia-Porrero, European Commission explained the next steps on the Card: launch an independent study to evaluate the initiative to assess whether it was useful and cost-effective. This will include thematic case studies and consultation of stakeholders. The study will be ready by end of 2019.

MEP Olga Sehnalová closed the event by reiterating Catherine Naughton’s point: many citizens were frustrated that neither the Czech Republic or Slovakia participated. A possible extension would be a welcome prospect.

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