The European Development Days (EDD) 2021 have left persons with disabilities behind

The European Development Days (EDD) 2021 have left persons with disabilities behind

On 15 and 16 June 20 21, European Disability Forum participated in the European Development Days (EDD) 2021. As with many events this year, the whole platform was online, which should have provided an opportunity for greater accessibility and inclusion.

Disability organisations not yet at the table

Together with CBM Global Disability Inclusion EDF had a stand at the ‘Global Village’ called ‘Disability and climate change’, where we presented the following resources:
• Video – Disability inclusive climate justice
• Document – CBM Global paper ‘The 4 Ps for Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities within Climate Change Plans’
• Document – Light For The World (LFTW) briefing paper ‘Rights-Based Climate Action – Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities’

Although all visitors to our stand were very positive towards our message, it was notable that the EDF stand was the only specific mention of disability in the whole platform. Several events and speakers highlighted the need to make sure that climate action is ‘inclusive of most marginalised people’, and similar statements, but again there was no specific mention of disability, and very little or no reference to actual practical steps being taken towards addressing the underpinning message of the 2030 Agenda ‘leaving no one behind’.

Considering the disproportionate impact of climate change on already-marginalised populations, and the lack of participation of organisations of persons with disabilities (DPOs) in the climate conversation, this is extremely disappointing.

Accessibility – a missed opportunity

EDF, together with the International Disability and Development Consortium (IDDC), has been advocating the European Commission (EC) since 2018 to make the EDD fully inclusive and accessible. We first sent an official letter complaining about accessibility issues during the 2018 EDD edition. It was signed by 12 organisations and representatives of the disability movement. The second official letter, sent in 2019, highlighted the barriers encountered by persons with disabilities that prevented their full participation during the event and provided a list of recommendations for future editions.

This year, with the EDD being fully online, it should have been an opportunity to finally achieve this goal. We repeatedly communicated with the EC to ask about accessibility and offer to provide guidance. However, it was once again an opportunity totally missed. For example:

  • It was relatively complicated to register for the event and to navigate the platform
  • During the event, technical problems made networking difficult
  • We did not see any live captioning or sign interpretation
  • We see no evidence that the online platform has attained any level of accessibility, and the light analysis that we have done so far shows many basic accessibility errors such as missing and repeated alternative texts and labels, contrast errors, and incorrect heading structures.

This is an initial reaction. EDF will follow-up internally in more detail, to ensure that future EU events are fully accessible to persons with disabilities, as is promised in the new European Disability Rights Strategy and the NDICI-Global Europe instrument to finance EU external action, adhering to obligations under the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD).

Contact: Gordon Rattray, EDF International Cooperation