The new Disability Rights Strategy 2021-2030 was published by the European Commission in March 2021, after several years of intense advocacy by us and our members. One of the key items that we wanted to see included was the European Disability Card – and we succeeded! The Card will be one of the “Flagship Initiatives”, that means it is one of the most important and visible action, of the new Disability Rights Strategy. And more: the Commission promises to deliver the Card by the end of 2023.
“The Commission will propose creating a European Disability Card by end of 2023 with a view to be recognized in all EU Member States. It will build on the experience of the ongoing EU Disability Card pilot project in eight Member States and upon the European parking card for persons with disabilities”.
We warmly welcome this initiative because we have been demanding a Card already for more than 10 years as one of our “top campaigns” and until now, this has been a voluntary initiative with very little guidance or strategic framework.
In fact, the history of the Disability Card goes back to 2013, when the European Commission, following demands from the Disability movement, established a “Project Working Group” with a group of interested Member States to exchange ideas and pave the way for a possible future European project. This continuous work, to which we have also contributed as observer member of the group and through our active advocacy of the years, is now bearing its fruits.
The Pilot project 2016-2018
One important factor that contributed to this concrete commitment of the lawmakers is the pilot project which ran between 2016 and 2018 in 8 different Member States (Belgium, Cyprus, Estonia, Finland, Italy, Malta, Romania, Slovenia), and which has now been evaluated. The results of the evaluation study were overall positive, stating that the benefits were outweighing the costs of such a project.
The Pilot project operated under the premise that Member States recognize the disability status of the Card holder on a mutual basis. So if somebody with a Belgian Disability Card goes on holidays in Cyprus, he can show the Card and receive the same advantages as a local Card holder, without having to explain their disability or rely on the goodwill of staff.
It may have brought positive results and has served as a good starting ground, but it has been rather limited in its scope and approach. For now it mainly provides advantages for Card holders that relate to activities in the areas of culture, leisure, sport, and tourism. This could be for example a reduction of the entry price for a local museum, a swimming pool, or a cinema. Or other advantages such as shorter queuing times in amusement parks, free entry for a personal assistant at a music festival, or similar.
What is next?
We know, however, that those advantages are “nice to have” and even though they can make a difference, we need a Card that goes beyond this purpose to really facilitate free movement for persons with disabilities in the EU. So before we can hold the Card in our hands, many questions remain open.
The Strategy is very vague on the how such a Card could look like, what advantages it will cover, what legal form will be needed to establish it, and who will be eligible for it. All of this will now need to be determined.
Therefore, EDF is planning several meetings and events to determine our position and further develop our vision of the Disability Card as we would like to see it. Bearing in mind that the EU decision-making procedures take time, 2023 is not far off. Our work has just begun!
How to participate
Register for our online workshop on the Disability Card : 16 September, 10:00 – 12:00 CET