Ten years on from the coming into force of the CRPD at the EU we explore what kind of progress has bee made, and what remains to be done.
10 years ago the United Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) came into force at the European Union (EU) level. The EU is the only regional integration organisation to have ratified the CPRD. This is groundbreaking and shows global leadership. It has led to major changes in how the rights of persons with disabilities are dealt with at international, EU and national level.
10 years is an important milestone. But as Europe’s 100 million persons with disabilities can testify, signing a Convention is not enough. Until persons with disabilities have the same rights as others, the same level of employment, educational attainment, social inclusion, right to travel, to work and study within the EU as others, living independently and being included in the community, the CRPD is still a work in progress.
The next EU Disability Rights Strategy is an opportunity to build the foundations for full implementation of the CRPD at the EU level.
“The impact of COVID-19 on persons with disabilities has changed everything. The discrimination, exclusion and impoverishment of persons with disabilities in Europe has been put in very sharp focus. All the people with disabilities who have lost their lives, their family members, their livelihoods, their contact with friends, family and their support network require from us, from the EU institutions to completely transform our work to include persons with disabilities.
There will be no more excuses. The CRPD has been in force for 10 years- it is time to make sure laws are adopted, laws are enforced, people are empowered, and funding is invested.
The upcoming Disability Rights Strategy should put the foundation in place for true equality for persons with disabilities in Europe.” says EDF President, Yannis Vardakastanis.
Important achievements need to be built upon to make these rights a reality.
Here are 10 reasons why we still need the CRPD:
Tweet your reasons using the hashtag #CRPDEU10
- Nothing about us without us: the CRPD has obliged governments to meaningfully involve persons with disabilities through their representative organisations (DPOs) in all matters which concern them. However structured and predictable, meaningful dialogue is still lacking and most DPOS do not have adequate resources to play their role. Article 4.3 of the CRPD and General Comment No 7 are keys in requiring the consultation and involvement of organisations of persons with disabilities.
- Accessibility: accessibility is increasingly becoming a core aspect of Information and Communication Technologies thanks to EU initiatives such as the European Accessibility Act or the Web Accessibility Directive. Persons with disabilities can more easily find accessible devices, such as computers or smartphones, but still face great accessibility barriers on the built environment, transport services or everyday products like, for example, household appliances. Persons with disabilities are also still at greater risk of harm during emergency situations as emergency public information and communication with dedicated contact numbers are still often inaccessible. Article 9 and Article 21 of the CRPD, and General Comment No 2 require the EU to step up.
- Equal treatment: persons with disabilities are protected against discrimination in the field of employment and vocational training through EU anti-discrimination legislation. To this day, the EU does not prohibit discrimination based on disability in access to education, health and access to goods and services. We need the EU to prohibit disability-based discrimination in all areas of life. Article 5 of the CRPD and General Comment No 6 lay fundamental obligations to ensure equality and non-discrimination of all persons with disabilities.
- Women’s rights: women and girls with disabilities continue to face higher risk of violence than other women, more discrimination than men with disabilities in access to employment, education and health, and they are exposed to human rights abuses such as forced sterilisation. Article 6 of the CRPD and General Comment No 3 compel the EU to do more.
- Independent living: it is estimated that around 1.5 million people in the EU still live in institutions. Despite the fact that EU Regulations forbid investment in institutional care, we do not have rules to prevent funds being invested in refurbishing existing institutions to improve their energy efficiency, or towards building new care facilities that remain institutional in nature. COVID-19 has provided a grim reminder to us of the dangers facing persons with disabilities in institutions, and should act as a catalyst to action. Article 19 of the CRPD and General Comment 5 describe in detail what states should put in place to make independent living a reality.
- Healthcare is primarily the responsibility of national governments, with the EU playing a supporting role. However, in actions taken, including during the COVID-19 pandemic, little to no consideration was given to persons with disabilities. Article 11 and Article 25 of the CRPD requires the EU to ensure disability inclusive response to emergencies and access to healthcare to all persons with disabilities.
- Freedom of movement and European Exchange programme:
- We have made a lot of progress with the Passengers Rights legislation in the EU. However, this legislation does not ensure spontaneous and independent travel, does not cover urban transport or short distance buses and still allow, in some circumstances, still allows for denial of boarding of persons with disabilities. The EU Disability Card has been created but is only available and recognised in 9 Member States. It does not allow persons with disabilities to have their disability recognised in different member states. Article 20 of the CRPD demands personal mobility with the greatest possible independence for persons with disabilities.
- Young people with disabilities are under-represented in EU youth programme such as mobility programmes like Erasmus+ where less than 2,5% are participants with disabilities. The insufficient financial support, non-transferability of services, inaccessibility and lack of information about the available measures for persons with disabilities are barriers for young persons with disabilities. The EU should ensure accessibility of information, enough financial support to allow participants with disabilities to take part on an equal basis as other young people in these EU programmes. It is fundamental under article 20 and article 24 of the CRPD.
- Implementing the CRPD: Disability rights are now included in many new policy fields, and more attention has been given to the CRPD by the EU Institutions. In 2019, we saw for the first time, the appointment of a Commissioner for Equality. However, it is really important that the EU establishes a CRPD unit and a comprehensive plan for coordinating its implementation of the CPRD. This mechanism is required by article 33of the CRPD.
- Beyond the EU: the commitments of the EU within the Union are not always the same as beyond the Union. It must ensure coherence between internal policies on persons with disabilities and what it does in external actions throughout the world. For instance, no EU money should be used to build inaccessible infrastructure or fund institutions in non-EU countries. The EU must partner with organisations of persons with disabilities in countries in which it develops projects and ensure all EU programmes and projects are accessible and inclusive. This is a key aspect of article 32 of the CRPD on international cooperation.
- Accountability and reporting: The EU and all of its members states have committed to the CRPD. This is a historic achievement. However, the EU and 6 member states have not ratified the Optional Protocol, which means people with disabilities cannot take complaints to the international committee of experts. In addition- some countries do not report on time to the UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, so they are avoiding having their performance reviewed. Article 35 of the CRPD requires prompt reporting of all States that ratified the Convention.
Easy read versions of the CRPD
- It’s about Ability! An explanation of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNICEF)
- Easy-read version of the CRPD – English
- Easy-Read version of the CRPD – Hungarian
- Easy-read version of the CRPD – Portuguese