Yesterday, the European Parliament adopted the new regulations for the Erasmus+ and the European Solidarity Corps Programmes of the European Commission.The Regulation establishes the programmes for the period of 2021-2027. The legal bases of the mentioned programmes contains provisions for persons with disabilities, yet not all our recommendations have been included, mainly the one on accessibility of the websites and online platforms used by the programmes, which are essential to get information, register for the programmes, reporting, get some administrative services and the linguistic preparation
The first two programmes are the mobility programmes for young people; Erasmus Programme for adult and young learners, students trainees and staff in educational settings and NGOs and other bodies sending or hosting mobilities, and the European Solidarity Corps is the programme of volunteering for young people.
The New Erasmus+ and European Solidarity Programmes are very ambitious. One of the main priority of the programmes along become green, digital simplified is being inclusive. This can us only rejoice.
The terminology under which persons with disabilities are included, people with fewer opportunities is now used by both programmes and the measures foreseen for this group are present across both programmes.
There is an entire article dedicated to inclusion that sets up the provision to dedicated funds for persons with disabilities and the costs that are linked to it, which is one of the most important reasons of not participating in the previous programme. The same article foresees the possibility of prefinancing the necessary funds. This article sets also the development of an Inclusion and Diversity Strategy by the European Commission, document that was published on 29 April. All EU member States part of the programme must develop their own Inclusion and Diversity Strategy in line with the European one.
What does concretely offers the programmse for persons with disabilities:
- Priority to projects focusing on the priorities of the programme
- Funding to costs related to disability
- Supporting measures for projects including people with fewer opportunities, the ones with disabilities too: support in setting the project preparatory visits, mentoring, etc, the measures are described in Chapter 5 of the Inclusion and Diversity Strategy
- National Sign Languages are considered as languages
- Blended mobilities including a virtual mobility component to facilitate the participation of those who can not move physically.
- Cumulation of the Funds with other benefits, such as the disability one
- Two indicators on inclusion, the number of people with fewer opportunities participating in the mobility activities and the number of new comer organisations and institutions.
More measures are described in the Inclusion and Diversity Strategy.
We are very disappointed to see that an essential axe is missing. The accessibility of websites and online tools used by the two programmes. Nor the Regulation, neither the Inclusion and Diversity Strategy are mentioning it. There is mention that the tools should be userfriendly, but this does unfortunately not mean that they should be compliant with the Web Accessibility Directive. This is even more disappointing when the programme has inclusion as priority and that Digitalisation is one. More ironic is that the component of virtual mobility is seen as an opportunity to be used by persons with disabilities. But how can they when the tools used for are still not accessible, just to mention an example, the Online Linguistic Support Platform used to learn languages.
What do we miss in these Regulations?
- The accessibility of websites and online tools used by participants organisations participating in the programmes
- The lack of legal reference to the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and the Web Accessibility directive,
- Training on accessibility for National Agencies and European Commission staff developing the platform’s website is not mentioned.
Both programmes are now covered with an ambitious Inclusive dress, we are expecting a higher number of participants with disabilities and less cases of students and volunteer to be obliged to pay from their own pocket costs linked to their disabilities because the hosting institution or organization, or the National Agency dealing with the funds have not taken the necessary steps.
We will continue to advocate to include the accessibility of websites and online platforms because this is one of the most important barieres faced by both young people and organisations willing to be part of the programmes. And how can one consider itself inclusive if the door to the programme is the online world?
The Inclusion and Diversity Strategy
Membership, Internal Communication & Youth Officer