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European Disability Strategy Confirmed: The EU Disability Forum Demands

[Brussels, 16 January 2020] Today, Commissioner for Equality Helena Dalli confirmed that the European Commission is committed to present a strengthened European Disability Strategy post 2020. This commitment was presented during the conference“Towards Inclusion 2020”. It is also present in the Communication“ A strong social Europe for just transitions” released on the 14 January 2020.

We welcome this confirmation and reiterate our demands for a strengthened strategy, especially:

- The establishment of disability focal points in all Commission DGs and Agencies, in all EU institutions. The main disability focal point should be in the Commission’s Secretary General, to reflect the transversality of disability issues. This is also a demand from the UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in the Concluding Observations of the CRPD Committee.
- Representative organisations of persons with disabilities should be involved in the entire process of planning, implementing and monitoring the strategy.
- The EU institutions must ensure we have disaggregated data on disability, through Eurostat – this will be essential to monitor the strategy.

We further demand that the strategy focuses on the following areas:

- Equality: ensuring adoption anti-discrimination legislation protecting persons with disabilities in all fields; ensuring all infrastructure and projects financed by EU funds have provisions to ensure accessibility.

- Participation, free movement and independent living: end segregation in institutional care: ensure significant invest in the transition from institutional to community living; ensure harmonised recognition of disability assessment and transfer of entitlement of support service when moving to another EU country: this is essential to ensure to free movement;

-  Accessibility: guarantee investment in accessibility of built environment and transport (and ensure EU funds never finance inaccessible products, services or infrastructure); accessibility must be included as pre-condition in any EU initiative concerning new technologies and research, and the EU should act on ensuring availability and affordability of assistive technology.

- Employment and training: the strategy should strengthen obligations for offering reasonable accommodation in the workplace; strive for legislation to stop persons with disabilities being paid below minimum wage; better enforce the existing directive on non-discrimination in employment; ensure EU funds facilitate employment of persons with disabilities in the open labour market, in part through investing in professional training.

- Education and culture: the strategy must fully implement the right to inclusive and mainstream education; it must guarantee accessibility and inclusion of further education and lifelong-learning; ensure accessibility and support when needed in EU funding programmes, such as ERASMUS+, European Solidarity Corps and Creative Europe.
- Poverty and social exclusion: ensure harmonised standards for adequate social protection; guarantee that persons with disabilities should not lose their entitlement to future disability allocations if they have been in work; when in employment, persons should be permitted to continue receiving disability allowances needed to compensate extra disability-related costs.
- External action: invest seriously in disability rights in third countries. Ensure all projects and infrastructure supported by EU funds is accessible for and inclusive of persons with disabilities and that EU funds invest in the implementation and monitoring of the UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and capacity building of organisations of persons with disabilities.
- Mainstreaming disability: the strategy needs to explore and ensure that all EU initiatives take into account the rights and needs of persons with disabilities. Especially important to ensure disability issues are included in the Green New Deal for Europe, the Youth Guarantee, the EU Youth Strategy, the Child Guarantee, and the Gender Equality Strategy, and the work of the High-Level Group on Gender Mainstreaming and of the European Institute for Gender Equality.
- Awareness raising: the strategy should support and foresee campaigns on raising awareness of the barriers still faced by persons with disabilities, including invisible disabilities. Campaigns should underline multiple and intersectional discrimination faced by certain groups of persons with disabilities, particularly with regards to women and girls, LGBTI people, migrants and refugees, and ethnic minorities.

The European Disability movement will strongly campaign to ensure our demands are met, both in the strategy and its implementation.

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