International Youth Day 2016: what are the challenges for young persons with disabilities in Europe?

12 August 2016
Group picture of EDF Youth Committee with EDF President in the middle and EDF director on his right

According to an ANED report, young disabled people have fewer chances than non-disabled youth to enter and progress within higher education. As a result, access to employment is challenging as well. Their employment rate tends to be much lower and they are over-exposed to unemployment and to exclusion from the labour market being at risk of poverty.

Access to education and employment is even more difficult for young persons with intellectual and psychosocial disabilities, or for young disabled people coming from migrant or minority families.

In 2011, EDF created its Youth Committee in order to mainstream youth in all EDF policies and actions and to raise awareness about the needs of young persons with disabilities in Europe. The members of EDF’s Youth Committee are young people (18 - 35 years old) with different kinds of disabilities coming from different countries in Europe.

To mark the International Youth Day, EDF asked Ovidiu Tuduruta, Chair of EDF’s Youth Committee, and Mathieu Chatelin, member of the Committee, to share their views on today’s challenges for young persons with disabilities in Europe and how they can be tackled.

What are the main challenges and difficulties that young people with disabilities face today in Europe?

Ovidiu Tuduruta: What is missing is a coherent process towards the achievement of uniformity. We have the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities that the EU and all its Member States except Ireland have ratified. However, due to the differences from one state to another in the interpretation of the law, as well as in its implementation, we have achieved far too few results in relation to the intentions and the efforts of the activists and decision makers involved in the creation and implementation of this Convention.

It’s also challenging that we have a complicated legislation, with an ultra bureaucratic administrative system, which has transformed the area of disability into a highly technical one. We are reaching a point in which one should have a degree in disability law in order to be able to understand how to find solutions to the problems disabled people face.

Last but not least, another important challenge that we encounter is the lack of accessibility, which hinders the mobility of persons with disabilities. Here, again, in most countries we have a large number of accessibility requirements and standards which, unfortunately, have not produced significant results in the accessibility of the physical environment.

Mathieu Chatelin: I think that the main issue is that we, as young persons with disabilities, whatever our disabilities may be, are deprived of being able to make full use of our EU Citizenship and to have equal rights to young people without disabilities.

What do you think that governments in Europe should do to help young people with disabilities to participate actively in society?

Ovidiu Tuduruta: Governments should understand that every policy and decision also affects, to a certain extent, the quality of life of persons with disabilities. If disability and human rights was among the priorities of the governments' agendas, we would have policies that respond in a coherent manner to the needs of people with disabilities. What we lack is not reference tools for governments, but, instead, a clear focus on the rights of people with disabilities. I don't think that governments have to create something new in terms of legislation for disabled people; they only have to pay increased attention to models of good practice in other countries and act in compliance with the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

Mathieu Chatelin: Someone’s disability should be coherently recognized if he/she travels to another EU country, meaning that this person will receive support like the people with disabilities of that country and that support services should be homogeneous across EU Member States to ensure that mobility does not reduce one’s benefits and rights. That would help to travel or study anywhere in Europe. If we are disabled in our countries, our disability is unlikely to disappear when we come to another country. Moreover, persons with disabilities, who are traveling with assistance to visit a country to study or work, should be facilitated without having a mountain of paper work to deal with.

For those requiring medical care, sharing of information among different countries is very important so that in case they need to receive care in another country, adequate emergency response could be provided quickly and efficiently.

The EU should ensure that all persons with disabilities can enjoy the right to free movement like all EU citizens by including in current and future legislation the guarantee of equal opportunities, fundamental rights, equal access to services and the employment market and the same rights and obligations in accessing social security as nationals of the Member State they are traveling to.

The EU should revise the pension system and disability-related social security and social protection measures in order to ensure non-discrimination and equality of opportunities for persons with disabilities, inter alia by recognising disability-related health needs as being distinct from an illness and promoting independent living and working by full reimbursement of the additional cost of equipment or service that is necessary for work (for example a Braille printer, hearing aids, sign-language interpreter, captioning services etc.). Disability benefits which are decent and at least represent the minimum wage are also needed to help to acquire independent living.

Assistance should be provided to disabled people who need it to enjoy their sexuality or to be in a relationship or marriage to remove the weight from the partners. Help should also be given to persons with disabilities who want to have children, including by having access to means of assisted procreation.


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