By: Kayleigh Thompson
At last Thursday’s EU Parliament public hearing on the impact of COVID-19 on people living in residential institutions, EDF President Yannis Vardakastanis brought forth a set of demands for EU-level action to better protect and promote the rights of persons with disabilities, arguing that the pandemic has exposed preexisting shortcomings and structural problems within both EU and national policies when it comes to institutionalisation of persons with disabilities.
Joined by experts from four other EU organizations, EDF President referred to different human rights violantions against persons with disabilities occurred in residential institutions during the COVID-19 pandemic, . Vardakastanis stated five political demands including a Parliament investigation into the numerous cases of discrimination and human rights violations in residential institutions across the EU; a strong commitment to support the right to independent living in the community; the use of the EU Budget to support deinstitutionalisation; vaccine prioritisation of persons with disabilities, and the adoption of the long-awaited EU horizontal antidiscrimination legislation. In this regard, Vardakastanis said:
“It’s absolutely unacceptable that these situations we are talking about find no legal base in the European Union because for 13 years the Equal Treatment Directive is blocked in the Council. The post-pandemic period must be a period of recovery for all European citizens, no one should be left behind.”
Other experts, including the EU Agency for Fundamental Rights, European Association of Service Providers for Persons With Disabilities, Age Platform Europe, and the European Network of National Human Rights Institutions echoed Vardakastanis’ demands, calling for similar budget reforms and regulations, more data on the situation of people living in residential institutions, , and better preparedness for future crises.
The hearing also included presentations from the European Commission Vice-President of Democracy and Demography Dubravka Šuica, and European Commissioner for Equality Helena Dalli and concluded with Q&A sessions from Members of the European Parliament about current plans of action to solve them at the EU-level, which include bolstering the EU Pillar of Social Rights, prioritizing stimulus for persons with disabilities to live independently within the Next Generation EU funds and prioritising deinstitutionalisation in the 2021-2030 Disability Rights Strategy.
This public hearing was jointly organised by the Employment and Social Affairs, and the Civil Liberties committee, and it is available on the Parliament website.
About Kayleigh Thompson, intern at EDF
Kayleigh is in her final semester of studies at American University in Washington, DC, pursuing a degree in International Relations with a focus in global governance and peace and conflict resolution and a translation certification in Russian Language. Having previously acted as a congressional liaison on behalf of Special Olympics International, Kayleigh has worked in disability rights advocacy on both the domestic and the international level.