This quote by Rodolfo Cattani from the European Disability Forum encapsulates the idea of the “European Day of Persons with Disabilities” highlighting the importance of involving people with disabilities in European but also national and local decision making. This annual conference on 3-4 December, hosted by the European Commission in partnership with the European Disability forum, represents a wider EU strategy to mainstream disability and accessibility issues and bring to light the various challenges people with disabilities face in their daily lives.
EU Disability Strategy 2010-2020
In 2010, the European Union ratified the United Nations Conventions on the Rights of People with Disabilities (UN CRPD) for which an Implementation Strategy is foreseen. Based on this commitment, the European Union adopted a European Disability Strategy 2010-2020 to further regional and Member States efforts embedded in a wider European process with the aim of inclusion and accessibility. The full and equal participation of persons with disabilities is the overarching objective of the European Disability Strategy with eight main areas for action: Accessibility, Participation, Equality, Employment, Education and Training, Social Protection, Health, and External Action.
SOLIDAR believes that social service providers play a vital role in achieving these objectives and providing their input on which priorities the policy level should focus on. This is why we encourage you to take part in the online consultation on the Disability Strategy that will take place between April and June 2019 on the European Commission website. More information on this consultation process will be circulated once this tool is available.
European Accessibility Act
Last month on 8 November, a provisional agreement was also found on the “European Accessibility Act” that aims to improve the accessibility of products and services by removing barriers created by divergent legislation. While it is positive that the EU and its Member States finally found an agreement on the Accessibility Act, SOLIDAR believes that this legislation does not live up to the expectations of what would have been possible and necessary. The Accessibility Act mainly formulates concrete accessibility requirements for services and products in the digital realm such as computers, TVs, ATMs, e-books, etc. which is a positive step. However, the 80 million Europeans with disabilities face various barriers in their daily, non-digital lives that are not taken into account in this directive such as in public transport or infrastructure and buildings. Find more information on the European Accessibility Act here.
Best practice from our SOLIDAR members
Many of our SOLIDAR members are in engaged and committed to improve accessibility and inclusion of people with disabilities. They play a substantial role in facilitating participation and empowerment by offering various projects and services that match the needs of all persons involved. Here, we would like to draw your attention two of many inspiring initiatives that our SOLIDAR member are involved in.
“Atelier Eastend” – Internationaler Bund, Germany
“Atelier Eastend” is a day care center in Frankfurt for people with disabilities and/or mental illness who are interested in art and community. The center offers its participants an extensive range of social and creative opportunities to express themselves artistically. Regardless of their individual starting point, different abilities can be acquired, nurtured and expanded here. Moreover, the center regularly participates in exhibitions, district festivals and public events where participants can showcase their artworks.
The “Atelier Eastend” is a cooperation of the Central Welfare Office of Jews in Germany, the Jewish Community of Frankfurt am Main as well as our SOLIDAR Member Internationaler Bund. The self-conception of the three organizations is aimed at mutual respect and appreciation of people with and without disabilities. While Jewish culture takes a focal point of this project, the “Atelier Eastend” is open for everyone interested in art and community, regardless of their origin, denomination or abilities.
“SAFE” – Volunteering Matters, United Kingdom
The SAFE (‘Sexual Awareness for Everyone’) project is aimed at women aged 16-35 living in Gwent, Wales who have a learning need or disability. This Volunteering Matters initiative aims at improving the personal safety and good sexual health of these young women through peer led workshops, one to one peer support and through the production and distribution of a SAFE card. Female volunteers with learning needs or disabilities will receive training on safer relationships, personal and online safety and sexual awareness, and help design and develop engaging and accessible sessions for the workshops.
These committed volunteers will then help to facilitate the workshops to groups of other young people with learning disabilities, passing on lessons they have learnt, giving advice, support and mentoring their peers in schools, colleges and youth centres across Gwent. People are much more likely to engage with their peers as there is a mutual understanding, they know how it feels have similar experiences.