Experience with the European Disability Card

Experience with the European Disability Card

Post written by: Alejandro Moledo, EDF Head of Policy

I am always proud to say that (I believe) I am the first Spanish person with the European Disability Card. In Spain we do have our national disability card, but when travelling, you always hope that when you show it, people will understand (or trust) that “discapacidad” means “disability”. Given that my disability is not that obvious sometimes, in the past when I travelled as tourist, or request assistance in airports, I used to show my Spanish card with an uncomfortable feeling, and putting my most innocent and trustable face. 

I am not going to say that with the European Disability Card is all much easier for us, but it really helps. In Belgium, my beloved country of residence, I successfully used it in cinemas, concerts, and museums – at the end of the day, this was an idea from the Belgian disability movement, and is the only disability card in Belgium. Still, much more places in Belgium should recognise it. 

And in Italy (my last trip before the pandemic), I used it even in places in which they did not know about its existence! With a big exemption though: transport services. Even if the railway company had discounts for Italians and Swiss with disabilities, they could not recognised I had a disability – I even tried with the Spanish one too, just in case!

Mutual recognition of our disabilities across the EU, this is what the EU Disability Card is all about. It is obvious that leisure, culture, and transport services must be covered – by the way, also any commercial service (for example, special offers in telephony or internet services for persons with disabilities which exist in many countries). 

But let’s take one step further to guarantee our free movement. When I moved to Belgium to work at EDF, it took me quite a long time to certify my disability (actually, I did it twice, but that’s another story).

What was I supposed to do during all that period? In my case, the support was not much, but for a person with higher support needs moving to another EU country is “Mission: Impossible”. Why the EU Disability Card cannot give us the support we need, if we decide to move to another country permanently to study or to work, at least until our disability is again assessed by our new country of residence?

I feel we must fight for the EU Disability Card to bring the same level of support as national with disabilities when we are temporarily on a country (doing an Erasmus, or just visiting as tourist), but also while we get our disability certified by our new residence country if we move permanently.

Such EU Disability Card will facilitate that persons with disabilities become mobile EU citizens, as it’s already our right. And it has already helped me to stop putting my ridiculous innocent-like face when requiring something that I’m totally entitled to.