The European Disability Card

To help people with disabilities travel more easily between EU countries, the EU is developing a voluntary system of mutual recognition of disability status and some associated benefits based on an EU disability card.

What is the European Disability Card?

We have been advocating for the creation of a European Card that gives proof of disability outside your Member State of residence for more than 10 years. It started off under the working title “European Mobility Card” and was then re-named “European Disability Card” when the European Commission finally launched a pilot project. This pilot ran in 8 Member States (Belgium, Cyprus, Estonia, Finland, Italy, Malta, Romania and Slovenia) between 2016 – 2019 to “test the water”. Under this project, the Card was voluntary and meant to ensure equal access to benefits across borders for persons with disabilities,  in the areas of culture, leisure, sport and transport.

What will it be used for?

The aim of the Card is to facilitate recognition of  disability status when going to other Member State. It concerns mainly persons who are temporarily staying abroad, such as tourists, students, or interns. If you move abroad permanently, the rules of the new Member State of residence apply.  Under the pilot project, the Card allowed persons with disabilities to access certain discounts for culture, leisure, sport, and transport under the same conditions as the nationals with disabilities of that country. This is also the scope that was proposed in the evaluation study by the Commission which was published in 2021.

EDF work on the Disability Card

  • EDF started first campaigning for the introduction of a European Disability Card (then known as “European Mobility Card”) in 2011
  • The core demand of EDF’s campaign was to establish a Card which is recognized throughout the EU and gives its holders the same disability related rights and discounts as a national of the Member States that the person is visiting
  • In 2015, we came closer to putting the idea of a European Disability Card into practice when the European Commission published a call for proposals for a pilot project. 8 EU Member States participated: Belgium, Cyprus, Estonia, Finland, Italy, Malta, Romania, and Slovenia.
  • The European Commission indicated that the following areas can be included: Culture, Leisure, Sport, and Transport (as previously agreed by the preparatory Project Working Group, where interested Member States representatives together with the European Commission and EDF were discussing the pilot project).
  • In March 2021, the new Disability Strategy was published and mentions that a legislative proposal for a European Disability Card as one if its “Flagships” will be adopted by 2023.

The EU Disability Card in the Disability Rights Strategy

Following the end of the pilot project, the European Commission conducted an evaluation study which indicated a positive result, recommending to widen the project to all Member States. Then, in March 2021, the new Disability Rights Strategy  was published and one of the initiatives proposed is the European Disability Card.

The Card will be one of the “Flagship Initiatives”, that means it is one of the most important and visible action of the strategy. The European Commission promises to deliver a proposal for the Card by the end of 2023 and that it will become available in all Member States.

However, the Disability Rights Strategy does not give concrete explanations on how the Card will be introduced or what advantages Card holders can expect. The Strategy is very vague. It is now our task to give input to the European Commission to shape this initiative so it can best serve persons with disabilities.

You can find more information on the website of the European Commission.

You can also download the full study on the assessment of the pilot action on the European Disability Card by the European Commission.

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Some experiences

  • “The application for the European Disability Card was very easy. I just had to send an email to the disability service with my name and national registry number and the card was sent to my home address.

     Shortly after receiving my EDC, I got a message from my home region that I had to renew my regional pass for reductions to cultural activities. So, I called the regional service to ask if I could use the EDC from now on, instead of the regional pass, as this would simplify things for me and reduce the number of cards I have to keep in my wallet.

     Unfortunately, they recommended to keep both cards, as the regional pass grants free entrance for a PA, but does not give any reductions for me personally, while the EDC could potentially provide other reductions for me, but will not apply to my PA.

    After this first set back, I decided to try it the other way around. I looked through the list of partners on the Belgian EDC website and saw that a theatre where I sometimes go to watch plays was listed as a partner. I called the theatre and asked if I could get the same reduction I usually get for me and my PA with the European Disability Card. The person on the phone was not aware of the EDC and the colleague who usually dealt with questions in the area recently retired.  So, once again, the advice was to keep my regional disability pass.

     After establishing that the EDC wouldn’t be of great use to me yet in Belgium, I thought let’s try to use it for travel.  I went to the Estonian EDC website and browsed through the different possible reductions for hotels. I noticed to my surprise that I could indicate if I was looking for EDC benefits for Estonians or foreigners. In the end, I randomly called one of the listed hotels and I was not really surprised to find out that, while their hotel was accessible to wheelchairs, they had never heard of a European Disability Card.”

    Frank, a Card holder from Belgium
  • “I live in Slovenia and I was very happy to get the EU Disability Card. On the Slovenian web and facebook page, I found many addresses where people with disabilities are offered benefits and discounts in Slovenia. That’s a very big advantage for us persons with disabilities.

     Several other EU members joined this project too. There are no contacts, even not at our Ministry of Labour, […], where we could get the addresses of the providers of benefits for the disabled, who are associated in the EU Disability Card.

     I think that the Card would have a real meaning if we all have the information who are the suppliers in other Member States, as the purpose of the Card is to use these services in all member states.”

    Marko, a Card holder from Slovenia
  • A family with two children from Ireland was planning on travelling to Finland. Both children have hidden disabilities, autism and dyspraxia, which can make travelling more difficult. Every time they travel, they have to get a note from their doctor because the note cannot be older than 3 months. On top of that, the doctor’s note has to be translated into the language of the country where they are travelling which is also at personal cost of the family. If they travel without the note, they are always uncertain if they will receive the reasonable accommodation they require, or they have to make lengthy explanations which can be tiring. A common European Disability Card would make travelling much easier for them.

     Children with invisible disabilities


Marie Denninghaus – Policy Coordinator