For the coming 10 years: The European Commission releases its Disability Rights Strategy

04.03.2021

The adoption of the EU Disability Rights Strategy comes after a process of extensive consultations with disabled persons’ organisations throughout 2020, and the European Blind Union is content that the motto “nothing about us without us” has translated well into reality on this occasion.

Also, the now released EU Disability Rights Strategy clearly refers to ‘Rights’. A welcome expression of the Commission’s intention to deliver on the rights defined in the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and in the Charter of fundamental Rights of the EU. This is a step forward compared to its predecessor framework, the EU Disability Strategy. One of the achievements under that Strategy was the adoption of the European Accessibility Act, but indeed the EU needs to go much further on the path toward inclusion of persons with disabilities. So we take note with interest of the main elements of the new EU Disability Rights Strategy, and will undertake a more in-depth analysis of its content shortly. Our initial reactions include:

  • Concerning equal enjoyment of EU rights for persons with disabilities, the EU Disability Rights Strategy meets our asks to ensure the accessibility of European elections and to expanding to all EU countries the EU Disability Card scheme for effective free movement of persons with disabilities.
  • We welcome the intention to address in the EU Disability Rights Strategy discrimination in key areas. But we regret silence on the horizontal Equal Treatment Directive currently blocked at the EU Council, and of going alternatively for a new disability-focused horizontal instrument.
  • The EU Disability Rights Strategy foresees the establishment of a new joint disability platform with an annual work programme and a network of disability focal points. But sadly the call to set up a European Access Board, to monitor how EU accessibility legislation is being implemented throughout the EU, is only partially answered, with the establishment of an “Accessible EU” resource centre to increase coherence in accessibility policies and to facilitate implementation of EU law.
  • It is positive to see that there will be a chapter on ensuring that communication from EU Institutions is up to accessibility standards. We have often pointed out that the EU has to practice what it preaches to Member States, e.g. in the Web Accessibility Directive.

EBU will play its active part in closely monitoring the implementation of the EU Disability Rights Strategy.