- EU-wide recognition of disability status needed
- EU should adopt a horizontal non-discrimination directive to boost rights
- Reforms needed to increase disabled people’s access to barrier-free travel, education, non-institutionalized housing and the built environment
In its report on the rights of persons with disabilities, the Committee on Petitions proposes reforms to promote the rights and dignity of this group of people.
The report, adopted with 31 votes in favour and 0 against (3 abstaining), assesses the EU’s current rights situation for persons with disabilities now that the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) has been in effect in the EU for a decade. Noting that the Committee on Petitions plays a ‘protection role’ when it comes to the rights of the disabled, MEPs highlights current issues, many of which have been highlighted in petitions from citizens.
The committee notes that a quarter of EU citizens have a disability or impairment of some kind. Firstly, the Union would benefit from a harmonized disability status in the union, universally recognized in all member states. The current system is a patchwork of differing rules and definitions. MEP also wish that all member states ratify the Optional Protocol of the CRPD, which would allow for complaints against violations of the Convention. Also noting the issue of digital accessibility and access to information, the report urges EU public bodies to ensure that their websites are accessible to everyone, including those with special needs, as required by the accessibility directive. More generally, persons with disabilities need to be included in the digital transformation.
European Disability Card, anti-discrimination legislation needed
The MEPs deplore the Council’s inability to pass a horizontal Anti-Discrimination Directive, which has been blocked by member states for many years. A European Accessibility Act has been passed into law, but MEPs regret that it does not include provisions on access to buildings and physical spaces: therefore, the Commission should develop a robust EU framework to address these issues.
MEPs urge member states and EU bodies to address issues related to travel, education and housing for persons with disabilities. For example, the EU should mandate shorter pre-notification periods for assistance with rail travel, and quickly implement the European Disability Card. The card would enhance equal access to free movement rights and cross-border access to health benefits. Additionally, everyone should be able to access public places and buildings, and therefore accessibility should be mainstreamed in planning processes, say the MEPs.
In the other key sectors, education systems need the capacity to accommodate all kinds of learners in a personalized way, and disabled persons need access to good-quality, non-institutionalized housing, so that they can participate independently in their community, note the MEPs. According to the report, cohesion funds could possibly be used to improve the living situations of persons with disabilities. Member states should mobilize all available resources to boost the equal rights and dignity of persons with disabilities.
Rapporteur Alex Agius Saliba (S&D, MT) said: “This report is very timely, taking into account the New Disability Strategy. The European Disability Card is one of the most important instruments that will help persons with disabilities to exercise their right to free movement; therefore, it should be mandatory in all Member States. Now it is our duty to improve the lives of persons with disabilities in a barrier-free Europe, free from discrimination and in full respect of their rights on equal basis with others.”
The report will now be tabled for the October plenary of the European Parliament.