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19th Oct 2018

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EU parliament leaders in disability pledge

  • EDF's Ioannis Vardarkastanis (third from left) with parliament's group leaders (Photo: European Disability Forum)

European Parliament leaders have committed themselves to better upholding the rights of persons with disabilities, starting with making their political websites more universally accessible ahead of next year's EU elections.

A meeting last week between the heads of six political factions and the European Disability Forum (EDF) resulted in a six-point declaration designed to keep disability issues to the political fore.

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"It is time to stop thinking that we are dealing only with financial crisis, but also with a social and human rights crisis," said the groups in a joint statement.

They noted that people with disabilities - an estimated 80 million in the EU - are among the "most vulnerable and disadvantaged social groups."

Among the pledges was a promise that the parliament would come up with "concrete proposals" on protecting disabled people from the effects of the crisis, with austerity-foscussed policy-making leading to slashed social welfare spending across the EU.

The parliament leaders also promised to "fully implement" a UN charter on the rights of people with disabilities - a landmark treaty from 2009 that seeks to ensure equal treatment for disabled people across all social, legal and employment spheres.

It plans to set up a special cross-committee to monitor the putting-into-place of all elements of the UN charter (UNCRPD) within the EU assembly itself. It also proposes hosting "regular democratic debates" on progress in implementing the charter across member states. To date, Finland, Ireland and the Netherlands have not ratified the charter.

With an eye on the EU elections in 2014, political leaders said they would spruce up their websites to make them "fully accessible" to blind or partly blind people.

Currently no political group has a website that conforms with international accessibility standards.

"We commit to make every effort to ensure the accessibility of our documents and information, with particular emphasis on our websites," says the statement.

Ioannis Vardarkastanis, President of the European Disability Forum, said that in the current economic crisis it was "more imperative than ever" that euro-deputies protect the human rights of EU citizens.

The parliament-backed declaration comes as disability campaigners have said that the economic crisis is making disabled people more invisible in society as governments revert to policies of institutionalising people, rather than providing access to services that keep them active in the community.

Interview

Disability in the EU - a 'paradigm shift'

Over recent decades, there has been a "paradigm shift" in the way disability rights are treated in the European Union with policy-makers now focussing on how to make society more inclusive of disabled people.

Disability and EU austerity: a Portuguese case study

As executive director of a recuperation centre for disabled people in central Portugal, Cristina Silva has seen first hand how the economic crisis in Portugal is affecting society's most vulnerable.

Disabled people have a right to live in the community

An estimated 1.2 million people with disabilities in Europe continue to languish in long-stay institutions. Institutionalisation is widely recognised as a systematic and egregious violation of human rights, writes Judith Klein.

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