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Focusing on the rights of disabled people

Posted by Nick Prag at 08 December 2017, 00:19 CET |

The European Day of Disabilities started this week off, to focus on the rights and needs of of people with disabilities, and how the EU can help improve their lives.

Nearly one in six people aged 15 or above in the EU lives with some kind of disability. This is expected to increase as a result of Europe's ageing population. The poverty rate for people with a disability is 70% higher than the average as they face additional expenses, lower incomes and a reduced chance of finding a job.

The European Disability Strategy is the EU's main instrument for implementing the UN's convention on the rights of persons with disabilities, which is a legally-binding human rights treaty. The idea is to ensure that people living with a disability are able to fully enjoy their rights.

The strategy aims to improve their situation by promoting accessibility, participation and equality in all areas of life, higher employment rates and inclusive education as well as social protection and necessary health services.

On Tuesday the French city of Lyon was awarded the 2018 Access City Award for its inclusive and universal accessibility.

The Access City Award recognises cities that are leading lights in overcoming barriers across Europe today. Its aim is to put the ideas, initiatives and best practices on show for evaluation and possible adoption by other cities across the EU.

Lyon's public buses are 100% accessible. Initiatives which stood out were accessible equipment in libraries, such as reading machines, audiobook readers and magnifying screens. The city has also developed digital tools for people with disabilities, and in terms of work integration, 7.8% of civil servants are people with a disability.

The week ended with the EU Council signalling its readiness to start talks with the European Parliament on the accessibility directive, to make everyday products and services more accessible to people with a disability.

The legislation, which has been two years in the making, should enable a wide range of products and services to become more accessible to those with special needs - for example consumer computer hardware systems, electronic communications services, e-books, transport ticketing machines and banking services such as ATMs.

The net result should be greater accessibility for persons with disabilities, enabling them to go about their daily business independently like the rest of the community.

Values have to be translated into concrete actions, as EU Parliament president Antonio Tajani says, "to enable every person to live an independent life, and to make sure that our society empowers everyone."

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Nick Prag

Nick Prag

Nick Prag is founder and managing editor of Prior to EUbusiness, he was senior editor at Europe Online SA in Luxembourg, where he played a major part in the launch of Europe Online International.