EU implementation of disability convention 'comprehensive but conservative'

Written by Geert Freyhoff on 30 June 2014 in News
News

The commission can take a 'more proactive and ambitious approach' towards EU disability policies, argues Geert Freyhoff.

The ratification of the United Nations convention on the rights of persons with disabilities (UN CRPD) by the European Union was a landmark in the fight for equal opportunities for all Europeans. Still, similarly important are mechanisms to ensure that CRPD provisions are actually put into practice and that disability is indeed mainstreamed in all policies. 

Therefore, Inclusion Europe, as the European voice of people with intellectual disabilities and their families, welcomes the publication of the first report on the implementation of the UN CRPD by the EU. It is a comprehensive account of the measures taken by the European institutions to ensure that the rights of people with disabilities are considered in all relevant legislative proposals, as well as in the implementation, monitoring and evaluation of EU policy. We also believe the European commission was right in supporting a study to analyse the extent to which current EU laws and policies are aligned to the CRPD.

However, while the report contains a lot of information, some parts of the document are clearly lacking a critical evaluation of the facts presented. For example, the 2008 proposal for an anti-discrimination legal framework in areas outside employment is mentioned as a legislative proposal, despite the process having been postponed because of failure to achieve consensus among member states.

"The report only makes very general recommendations with no indication of a clear timeframe"

In addition, the commission has so far not announced a proposal for a European accessibility act, nor give any indication about a follow-up to the EU agenda for the rights of child, or any measures taken to align this agenda to the CRPD provisions on children with disabilities.

In relation to accessibility, mentioned in regards to several policies or initiatives, the report only makes very general recommendations with no indication of a clear timeframe. No specific provisions are brought forward, such as presenting information in alternative or easy-to-read formats, which would support accessibility for people with intellectual disabilities. Moreover, the report itself is not provided in an accessible format, and does not have an easy-to-read summary.

On the topics of legal capacity and political participation, the commission has also taken a rather conservative approach by claiming a lack of legal competence. Even in their area of competence, the fight against discrimination, the report does not mention any concrete steps to remove barriers for people with intellectual disabilities under guardianship and allow them to access employment, community-based services, or to exercise their right to vote.

"With all the publicity given to the European elections, it is disappointing that political participation has not been acknowledged as an area where the EU could provide an impulse to end discrimination against citizens with disabilities"

With all the publicity given to the European elections, it is disappointing that political participation has not been acknowledged as an area where the EU could provide an impulse to end discrimination against citizens with disabilities.

While the report is clearly valuable, offering an extensive overview of policies related to the issue of disability in the EU, Inclusion Europe believes the commission could have taken a more proactive and ambitious approach, one that could have helped move the agenda forward.

In that respect, organisations of people with disabilities could have given valuable input, had they had sufficient time to comment on the report before its publication. We will now cooperate with the whole European disability movement in the drafting of an alternative report to the CRPD committee that will critically analyse the present situation and propose more concrete proposals and actions.

About the author

Geert Freyhoff is director of Inclusion Europe

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