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European Disability Strategy 2010-2020 - guide

15 November 2010
by eub2 -- last modified 15 November 2010

Most people take it for granted that they can hop on a bus to go shopping, surf the Internet or enjoy a television series. But for the 80 million Europeans with a disability, there may be major obstacles that put these activities out of reach. The European Commission today adopted a new strategy to break down these barriers. The plan outlines how the EU and national governments can empower people with disabilities so they can enjoy their rights. Specific measures over the next decade range from the mutual recognition of national disability cards, the promotion of standardisation to a more targeted use of public procurement and state aid rules. These measures will have substantial societal benefits, but should also produce a knock-on effect on Europe's economy. They could for example enhance the EU market for assisted devices and services, which already today has an estimated annual value of over €30 billion. The Commission will also consider whether to propose a "European Accessibility Act" by 2012 to further develop the Single Market for accessible products and services.


Why does the EU need a new strategy on disability?

Around 80 million Europeans have a disability, representing one out of six people in the EU. They have the right to participate fully and equally in all aspects of life, both in the economy and society as a whole, but in practice continue to face barriers in everyday life, both physical and in terms of attitudes. People with disabilities are on average poorer than other Europeans, are less likely to have a job, and face more limited access to goods and services such as education, healthcare, transport, housing and technology. The European Commission is committed to removing these barriers. The European Disability Strategy sets out the Commission's actions in eight key areas over the next decade.

What are the main goals of the strategy?

The overall aim is to empower people with disabilities so that they can enjoy their rights and participate fully in society. The European strategy identifies actions at EU level to supplement national measures. It also identifies the support needed for funding, research, awareness-raising, statistics and data collection.

The strategy focuses on eliminating barriers across eight main areas: accessibility, participation, equality, employment, education and training, social protection, health, and external action. For each area, key actions are identified and include a timeline. These areas were selected on the basis of the overall objectives of the EU Disability strategy, the United Nations Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities (UNCRPD), the related policy documents from EU institutions and the Council of Europe, as well as the results of the EU Disability Action Plan 2003-2010, and a consultation of the Member States, stakeholders and the general public.

What are the main barriers?


Goods, services and participation in political and leisure activities are not always accessible for people with disabilities on an equal basis with other individuals. For example:

* Premises open to the public – such as shops, restaurants, cinemas, post offices, schools and courts of law – are often inaccessible to people with disabilities;
* Access to transport and mobility infrastructure is a problem for many disabled people, acting as a barrier to work and social activities;
* Services such as insurance, rented accommodation and banking are less accessible because of different standards or even refusal to provide service;
* Only 5% of public websites comply fully with web accessibility standards;


People with disabilities have an average employment rate of around 50%. Employment rates for people with very severe and severe degrees of disability are 19.5% and 44.1%, respectively


People are more at risk of poverty and social exclusion if they have problems finding work. The poverty rate for people with disabilities is 70% higher than average.


People with disabilities have fewer opportunities to participate fully in education. In the 16-19 age group, the rate of non-participation in education is 37% for considerably restricted people and 25% for those restricted to some extent, while for those not restricted it is 17%. This is a significant disadvantage for personal development, social integration and job opportunities.

What are the strategy's main actions?

Actions in the strategy's first five years will be monitored and updated periodically.

* The Commission will consider proposing a European Accessibility Act in 2012. This will set out a general accessibility framework in relation to goods, services and public infrastructure using different instruments such as standardisation, public procurement or state aid rules. The Commission will continue to support research on new technologies, such as assistive devices.
* There will be numerous actions to address the obstacles that people with disabilities face in exercising their political rights, such as developing and disseminating standards on accessible election facilities and campaign material.
* The Commission will work to ensure that the European Platform Against Poverty, a flagship initiative under the Europe 2020 Strategy, will contribute to reducing the threat of poverty for people with disabilities.
* Making sure that the European Social Fund will continue to offer significant – and optimised – support to projects related to persons with disabilities.
* Intensifying efforts to gather knowledge and data in order to better tackle challenges in the employment situation of people with disabilities and propose remedies.
* The Commission will develop policies for inclusive and quality education and training within the framework of the Youth on the Move initiative.
* Work towards the mutual recognition of disability cards and related entitlements. The Commission will continue to promote the use of the European model of disability parking card.
* Promoting the rights of people with disabilities in the EU's external action, including the enlargement process and development programmes.

What effect will the Strategy have on Europe's economy?

The EU market for assistive devices – which has an estimated annual value of €30 billion – is still fragmented and the devices are expensive. Policy and regulatory frameworks do not reflect the needs of the people with disabilities and the manufacturing industry. More standardisation would improve economies of scale and traders could more easily offer their products and services across borders. This would produce positive knock-on effects for Europe's economy. In the US, stepping up the use of public procurement has been very successful in making public infrastructure more accessible in a cost-effective way. The approach can serve as model for the EU.

Creating a more inclusive society brings market opportunities and fosters innovation. There is a strong business case for making services and products accessible to all, given the demand from a growing number of ageing consumers. Over a third of people aged over 75 have disabilities that restrict them to some extent.

How aware are Europeans of disability and barriers in everyday life?

A 2009 special Eurobarometer survey of attitudes to discrimination showed that 53% of respondents across the EU believed that discrimination on grounds of disability was widespread.

Around 80% of respondents to the public consultation for the Disability Strategy 2010-2020 agreed or strongly agreed that people with disabilities face discrimination in their everyday activities. 44% of individual respondents indicated that they had experienced problems because of their disabilities; another 45% had indirect experience, through friends or family.

Is removing barriers important for Europeans?

95% of respondents to the same public consultation (citizens and organisations) said that lack of access to the built environment was an important or very important issue. Just one percentage point behind was the lack of equal opportunities in the job market. 91% saw the lack of equal opportunities in education and difficulties in independent living as important or very important issue; 68% cited barriers to free movement.

According to another Eurobarometer 91% of respondent think more money should be spent on eliminating physical barriers for people with disabilities.

What is the EU's role in disability issues? How will the Commission work with the EU partners?

Disability issues are relevant in all aspects of life, depending on the level of the EU's competence. In policies such as competition (which includes state aid), in which the EU has exclusive competence, only the EU may legislate and adopt legally binding acts.

In contrast, the EU has only competence to support, coordinate and supplement Member States' actions in policies such as health, education and training, youth, sports and culture.

In many areas – such as the Single Market; transport; consumer protection or freedom, security and justice (including non-discrimination) – the EU shares its competence with the Member States. This means that both the EU and the Member States may legislate and adopt legally binding acts.

The practical outcome of this division and sharing of roles is that the European Disability Strategy will need to focus on both EU and Member State-level actions, which will complement each other. For example, the EU has a supportive role in Member States' efforts in the transition from institutional to community-based care for people with disabilities.

The Commission has been working to achieve the closest cooperation possible with Member States, NGOs and the other European institutions. The High Level Group on Disability has been at the centre of this cooperation. As the EU and the Member States will continue implementing the UNCRPD, they will put in place focal points, coordination mechanisms and a framework including at least one independent mechanism to support implementation of the Convention.

What budget is planned to support disability policies?

Until 2013, the current programmes such as the European Social Fund, the Progress programme, the 7th Framework programme for research and others will continue to provide funding for the implementation of disability-related initiatives.

The next EU Multiannual Financial Framework will be presented in the first half of 2011. It will provide support after 2013 for the implementation of actions included in the strategy.

Source: European Commission

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