Portugal needs National Disability Strategy - Conclusions of high-level visit to Portugal on rights of persons with disabilities

26 March 2018
Our President, Yannis Vardakastanis, sits among other participants in the visit

Our President, Yannis Vardakastannis, participated in a 3-day visit to Portugal. The visit focused on the rights of persons with disabilities. It took place from 19 to 21 March. It was organized by the European Economic and Social Committee – Group 3 and Standing Group on the Rights of People with Disabilities.

The visit focused on the impact of the economic crisis on persons with disabilities. It looked at the politics of the Portuguese Government to ensure the rights of persons with disabilities.

The most important remarks were:

  • Disability discrimination in Europe averages 15% but in Portugal this figure increases to 65%. Despite this, Portugal still lacks a national strategy for inclusion of persons with disabilities.

  • The Portuguese Government introduced important measures focused on targeted social benefits and on independent living. These measures aim to move away from institutionalisation and towards the empowerment of individuals. While this is encouraging, organisations noted that the lack of national strategy is a major obstacle.

  • The inclusive education system in Portugal is a positive practice. The inclusion of students with disabilities within the education system is 99%, with 86% receiving mainstream education. However, the availability of support services is diminishing at an alarming rate.

  • There is still a gender gap in access to inclusive education. Girls with disabilities are less present in schools.

  • Employment of persons with disability: registered unemployment increased to 26.7% for persons with disability. Women faced double discrimination, as 37.2% of women with disabilities are unemployed, compared to 20% of the men.

  • Access to social benefits requires at least a score of “60% disability”, based on a medical assessment. It uses a controversial list of physical disabilities that discriminates against mental disabilities.

  • There is a great need for additional funding for organizations operating in the community.

Mr Yannis Vardakastanis stressed that

Reforms are needed on how people receive their social benefits and on the way the disability assessment system works, especially the medical analysis which as it stands may be acting against the UNCRPD guidelines. The assessment should be based on needs, not on the level of disabilities - this is the human rights approach.

Despite the challenges, there are several organisations which do great work in including persons with disabilities. Organisations as Novamente, APD (Portuguese Association of Persons with Disabilities), CNOD (Portuguese Confederation of Persons with Disabilities), CECD Sintra, Instituto Liga Institute and Association for Study and Psychosocial Integration.

Ms Petraitiene stated, at the end of the mission, that

Accessibility and awareness raising of the challenges faced by persons with disabilities in Portugal still has a long way to go. Here, the European Union and the Portuguese Government could ensure a more efficient dissemination of funds and more relevant and targeted programmes to address those most marginalised in society.

Meetings:

19 March

• Ana Sofia Antunes, State Secretary for Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities • Ana Sezudo, Portuguese Association for Persons with Disabilities (APD). • Lina Lopes, União Geral Trabalhadores • Humberto Santos, Instituto Nacional para a Reabilitação • Vera Bonvalot, Novamente • Joaquim Pequicho, FENACERCI

20 March

• José Reis, CNOD (Portuguese Confederation of Persons with Disabilities) • José Augusto Oliveira, CGTP • Fernando Gomes, Executive Office responsible for equality and anti-discrimination CGTP • Fernando Maurício, International UGTP Department, • Ana Vieira, CCP (Portuguese Trade and Services Confederation), • Visit to CECD Mira Sintra and meeting with Carina Conduto, CECD Executive Director.

21 March

• Paula Pinto, Observatory of Disability and Human Rights, University of Lisbon • Cristina Passos, Fundação LIGA • Teresa Duarte, Associação para o Estudo e Integração Psicossocial

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