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A new ambitious EU Disability Strategy for 2021-2030

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Following Parliament’s recommendations, the European Commission adopted an ambitious post-2020 disability strategy. Discover its priorities. Society 

The European Parliament called for an inclusive society in which the rights of people living with disabilities are protected and where there is no discrimination.

In June 2020, Parliament set out its priorities for a new post-2020 EU Disability Strategy, building upon the European Disability Strategy for 2010-2020.

In March 2021, the Commission adopted the Strategy for the Rights of Persons with Disabilities 2021-2030 encompassing Parliament’s main recommendations:

  • The mainstreaming of the rights of all people living with disabilities into all policies and areas.
  • Recovery and mitigation measures to avoid people with disabilities getting disproportionally affected by health crises such as COVID-19.
  • Equal access for people with disabilities to health care, employment, public transport, housing.
  • The implementation and further development of the EU disability card pilot project, which allows for the mutual recognition of disabilities in some EU countries.
  • People with disabilities, their families and organisations were part of the dialogue and will be part of the process of implementation.

People living with disabilities in Europe: facts and figures  

  • There are an estimated 87 million people with disabilities in the EU.
  • The employment rate of people with disabilities (aged 20-64) stands at 50.8%, compared to 75% for people without disabilities. 
  • 28.4% of people with disabilities in the EU are at risk of poverty or social exclusion, compared to 17.8% of the general population.  
A differently-abled man working in an amputee shop for production of prosthetic extremity parts.©Hedgehog94/AdobeStock
A man working in an amputee shop on the production of a prosthetic extremity parts.©Hedgehog94/AdobeStock  

EU disability measures so far

The European Disability Strategy was put in place to implement the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities 

  • An international legally binding human rights treaty setting minimum standards to protect the rights of people with disabilities 
  • The EU and all member states have ratified it 
  • Both EU and member states are obliged to implement the obligations, according to their competences 

Among the concrete initiatives launched thanks to the European Disability Strategy is the European Accessibility Act, which ensures that more products and services like smartphones, tablets, ATMs or e-books are accessible to people with disabilities.

The directive on web accessibility means people with disabilities have easier access to online data and services online because websites and apps operated by public sector institutions, such as hospitals, courts or universities, are required to be accessible.

The Erasmus+ student exchange programme promotes the mobility of participants with disabilities.

EU rules also ensure improved access to transport and better passenger rights for people living with disabilities.

Find out more on EU policies for a more social Europe.

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Disabilities

Union of Equality: European Commission presents Strategy for the Rights of Persons with Disabilities 2021-2030

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On 3 March, the European Commission presented an ambitious Strategy for the Rights of Persons with Disabilities 2021-2030 to ensure their full participation in society, on an equal basis with others in the EU and beyond, in line with the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union and the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union, which establish equality and non-discrimination as cornerstones of EU policies. Persons with disabilities have the right to take part in all areas of life, just like everyone else. Even though the past decades brought progress in access to healthcare, education, employment, recreation activities and participation in political life, many obstacles remain. It is time to scale up European action.

The new strategy builds on its predecessor, the European Disability Strategy 2010-2020, and contributes to the implementation of the European Pillar of Social Rights for which an Action Plan will be adopted by the Commission this week, which serves as a compass for employment and social policies in Europe. The strategy supports implementation by the EU and its Member States of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities at both EU and national levels.

Values and Transparency Vice President Vera Jourová said: “The protection of the rights of persons with disabilities has to be at the centre of our efforts, including in our response to the coronavirus. People with disabilities have been among those hit hardest by the COVID-19 crisis. We must strive to ensure that people with disabilities quality of life improves and their rights are guaranteed!”

“Since its inception, the European project focused on removing barriers, in line with its vision of a Union in Diversity. However, many persons with disabilities continue to face obstacles, for instance when looking for a job or using public transport,” said Equality Commissioner Helena Dalli. She added: “People with disabilities should be able to participate equally in all areas of life. Living independently, learning in an inclusive environment, and working under appropriate standards are conditions that we need to ensure to all citizens to enable them to flourish and live life to the fullest.”

Enhancing equal participation and non-discrimination

The ten-year strategy sets out key initiatives around three main themes:

  • EU rights: Persons with disabilities have the same right as other EU citizens to move to another country or to participate in political life. Building on the experience of the pilot project ongoing in eight countries, by the end of 2023 the European Commission will propose a European Disability Card for all EU countries that will facilitate mutual recognition of disability status between Member States, helping disabled people enjoy their right of free movement. The Commission will also work closely with member states to ensure the participation of persons with disabilities in the electoral process in 2023.
  • Independent living and autonomy: Persons with disabilities have the right to live independently and choose where and with whom they want to live. To support independent living and inclusion in the community, the Commission will develop guidance and launch an initiative to improve social services for persons with disabilities.
  • Non-discrimination and equal opportunities: The strategy aims to protect persons with disabilities from any form of discrimination and violence. It aims to ensure equal opportunities in and access to justice, education, culture, sport and tourism. Equal access must also be guaranteed to all health services and employment.

It is impossible to participate in society on an equal basis with others when your environment – physical or virtual – is not accessible. Thanks to a solid EU legal framework (e.g. the European Accessibility ActWeb Accessibility DirectivePassenger Rights) access has improved, however, many areas are still not covered by EU rules, and there are differences in the accessibility of buildings, public spaces, and some modes of transport. Therefore, the European Commission will launch a European resource centre ‘AccessibleEU' in 2022, to build a knowledge base of information and good practices on accessibility across sectors.  

Delivering the strategy: Close co-operation with EU countries and mainstreaming in internal and external policies

Delivering on the strategy's ambitions will require a strong commitment from all Member States. EU countries are key actors in the implementation of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. The Commission will establish the Disability Platform, bringing together national authorities responsible for implementation of the Convention, organisations of persons with disabilities and the Commission to support implementation of the strategy and to enhance cooperation and exchange on implementing the Convention. The Platform will have a comprehensive online presence and ensure continuity of activities throughout the year. Persons with disabilities will be part of the dialogue and part of the process of implementing the Strategy for the Rights of Persons with Disabilities 2021-2030.

The Commission will integrate disability matters into all EU policies and major initiatives. Because the rights of persons with disabilities do not end at Europe's borders, the Commission will promote the rights of persons with disabilities globally. With this strategy, the EU will reinforce its role as an advocate for the rights of persons with disabilities. The EU will use instruments such as technical assistance and financial programmes, support via EU delegation, political dialogues and work in multilateral fora to support partner countries in their endeavours to implement the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and provide guidance to implement the SDGs in a disability inclusive manner.

Background

As announced by President von der Leyen, the Strategy for the Rights of Persons with Disabilities 2021-2030 contributes to building the Union of Equality, together with the LGBTIQ Equality Strategy 2020-2025, the EU Anti-Racism Action Plan 2020-2025, the Gender Equality Strategy 2020-2025 and the EU Roma Strategic Framework.

The United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD), adopted by the UN in 2006, was a breakthrough for the rights of persons with disabilities: all member states are party to it, and it is the first human rights convention concluded also by the EU. Parties to the Convention are required to promote, protect and fulfil the human rights of all persons with disabilities and ensure their equality under the law. With this Strategy, the Commission provides the framework supporting EU and Member States' actions to implement the UNCRPD.

The European Disability Strategy 2010-2020 paved the way to a barrier-free Europe, for example with directives such as the European Accessibility Act, that requires key products and services such as phones, computers, e-books, banking services and electronic communications to be accessible and usable for persons with a variety of disabilities. EU passenger rights ensure that persons with disabilities have access to road, air, rail or sea travel. Through policies for international cooperation, the EU has also led the way globally in promoting the inclusion and full participation of persons with disabilities.

More information

Communication: Union of Equality: Strategy for the Rights of Persons with Disabilities 2021-2030

Easy-to-read version: Strategy for the rights of persons with disabilities 2021-2030

Q&A: Strategy for the Rights of Persons with Disabilities 2021-2030

Factsheet: Strategy for the Rights of Persons with Disabilities 2021-2030

News in easy-to-read: The European Commission puts out a new strategy to protect the rights of persons with disabilities

More information on EU initiatives for persons with disabilities

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Disabilities

European Disability Strategy 2010-2020 helped to remove barriers

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The European Commission has published the evaluation of the European Disability Strategy 2010-2020. The Strategy aims to empower persons with disabilities to enjoy their full rights and to benefit from participating in society on an equal basis with others. It also implements the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities at EU level. The 10-year evaluation shows that, while there is room for improvement, the Strategy had a positive impact on EU rules and policies. A good example of its positive impact is the inclusion of disability issues in EU legislation and policy, with the adoption of the European Accessibility Act, the Web Accessibility Directive and legislation on the rights of passengers.

Equality Commissioner Helena Dalli said: “We have achieved a strong legal framework at EU level to eliminate barriers that prevent people with disabilities from participating fully in society. We have to keep up our efforts. Early next year, the Commission will present a reinforced strategy for 2021-2030. The new strategy will build on the progress achieved and the challenges identified in the present evaluation.”

Involving persons with disabilities and organizations representing them in the policy-design of the Strategy has contributed to its positive results, notably in making sure that issues that really matter to them were high on the EU's agenda. Despite the efforts of the European Union and its Member States, people with disabilities continue to face challenges, like high rates of unemployment or poverty. The new S 2021-2030 trategy will build on the results of today's evaluation and will address emerging issues such as the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on persons with disabilities. The evaluation can be accessed here.

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Disabilities

Parliament calls for a new ambitious #EUDisabilityStrategy

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A man in a wheelchair working in an office. ©Industrieblick/AdobeStock©Industrieblick/AdobeStock 

As the current EU Disability Strategy comes to an end, Parliament is calling on the European Commission for an ambitious post-2020 strategy. Discover its priorities.

What the Parliament wants in the new EU Disability Strategy

The European Parliament wants an inclusive society in which the rights of people living with disabilities are protected and adapted to individual needs and where there is no discrimination.

During the June plenary session, MEPs will vote on its priorities for a new EU Disability Strategy post 2020, building upon the current European Disability Strategy for 2010-2020.

Parliament wants the EU to lead in promoting the rights of people with disabilities and calls for an ambitious and comprehensive strategy based on the principle of full inclusion.

The resolution calls on the European Commission for:

  • A new strategy to be developed in close cooperation with people with disabilities and their organizations.
  • The mainstreaming of the rights of all people with disabilities into all policies and areas.
  • Clear and measurable targets and regular monitoring.
  • Equal access for people with disabilities to health care, employment, public transport, housing.
  • Sufficient funds for the implementation of all accessibility-related obligations.
  • The implementation and further development of the EU disability card pilot project, which allows for the mutual recognition of disabilities in some EU countries.
  • A common EU definition of disability.
People living with disabilities in Europe: Facts and figures
  • There are an estimated 100 million people with disabilities in the EU.
  • The employment rate of persons with disabilities (aged 20-64) stands at 50.6%, compared to 74.8% for people without disabilities. (2017)
  • 28.7% of persons with disabilities in the EU are at risk of poverty or social exclusion, compared to 19.2% of the general population. (2018)
  • 800,000 people living with disabilities are denied the right to vote in the EU.
A differently-abled man working in an amputee shop for production of prosthetic extremity parts.©Hedgehog94/AdobeStockA man working in an amputee shop on the production of a prosthetic extremity parts.©Hedgehog94/AdobeStock
EU disability measures so far

The European Disability Strategy was put in place to implement the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities
  • An international legally binding human rights treaty setting minimum standards to protect the rights of people with disabilities.
  • The EU and all member states have ratified it.
  • Both EU and member states are obliged to implement the obligations, according to their competences.

Among the concrete initiatives launched thanks to the European Disability Strategy is the European Accessibility Act, which ensures that more products and services like smartphones, tablets, ATMs or e-books are accessible to people with disabilities.

The directive on web accessibility means people with disabilities have easier access to online data and services online because websites and apps operated by public sector institutions, such as hospitals, courts or universities, are required to be accessible.

The Erasmus+ student exchange programme promotes the mobility of participants with disabilities.

Find out more on EU policies for a more social Europe.

Next steps

The European Commission is planning to present its proposal for a new disability strategy in 2021.

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