As for all children, it is vital for young blind and partially sighted youngsters to have access to and enjoy a good education. Inclusive education helps to build an inclusive society. Inclusive education teaches visually impaired and sighted children to learn and play together, making the concept of diversity and equality a practical and natural way of thinking for them.
In order to obtain a clear picture of the possibilities and barriers of exchange programs for university students with visual impairments (VI), EBU and ICEVI-Europe have set up a research group. The research group consists of a researcher from ELTE University Bárczi Faculty of Special Education, Budapest (Hungary), a specialist in visual impairment from ICEVI-Europe, a university disability coordinator from Comenius University in Bratislava (Slovakia) and a member of EBU. The research group has gathered information about the experience of students with VI and Erasmus+ coordinators, resulting in the following documents;
Recommendations for students with visual impairment participating in international exchange programmes (pdf)
The aim of this brochure is to motivate blind and partially sighted students to participate in international mobility with the Erasmus+ program and to help them prepare for a successful academic experience and stay abroad. Information, recommendations, questions and messages are mainly drawn from the above-mentioned surveys and project materials. But other resources, recommendations and initiatives pursuing the same goal - promoting engagement, equal opportunities and implementing measures that will ensure the conditions for active participation are also used. .
A report 'Erasmus+ Mobility of Students with Disability'
A State-of-the-art report on the accessibility of exchange programs for students with visual impairments jointly produced with ICEVI Europe which intends to obtain a clear picture of the possibilities and barriers of exchange programs for university students with visual impairments.
Accessible Universities for Erasmus+ Students with Visual Impairment
This document reports on the outcomes of the activities of the common project in its 2nd phase. The activities were aimed at investigating the opinions, experiences and suggestions of Erasmus+ mobility participants, and employees of universities involved in arranging international mobility programmes for students with visual impairment.
The 'Pedagogy and Language Learning for Blind and Partially Sighted Adults in Europe' project ran from 2008 to 2010 and aimed at Improving the accessibility of language learning for visually impaired (VI) persons. The final document 'Good practice for improving language learning for visually impaired adults' is now available in pdf format in Czech, English, French, Greek and Slovak.
Nearly 90% of all blind and partially sighted Europeans are over the age of 60, and two thirds are over the age of 65. Elderly people with sight loss may have additional health problems such as loss of hearing and reduced physical mobility.
They find it more difficult to learn new ways to adapt to their new condition and to cope with daily tasks. They are less likely to have access to adequate rehabilitation programmes or have the opportunity to register as disabled, because they feel it is ‘just part of growing old.' Agencies providing services to older people may have low awareness of sight problems. Consequently older people may be less aware of the support services available to them, and are at increased risk of isolation.
A Tale of Three Cities, a partnership project between the European Blind Union and the European Guide Dog Federation with additional collaborative support and assistance from Age Platform Europe. This looks at the experiences of a cross section of blind and partially sighted elderly people in three European cities, Tullamore in Ireland, Salzburg in Austria and Marseille in France. The resulting Tale of Three Cities report (pdf), uses specific criteria to examine the experiences of older people in adapting to poor vision whilst endeavouring to continue accessing the communities in which they live.
BIOVI report (pdf file) on two big projects took on in order to secure access to information for visually impaired people in Iceland, with special attention to the needs of senior citizens with visual impairments.
The United Nations Economic Commission for Europe 2012 Ministerial Conference in Ageing ‘Ensuring a Society for all Ages'. Alan Suttie (Co-ordinator, Elderly Network, since deceased) attended this meeting as an invited representative on behalf of European Blind Union (EBU) and with support from World Blind Union (WBU) who have United Nations (UN) consultative status. Download Ensuring a Society for all Ages report (.doc 25ko), and the Ministerial Declaration (pdf 381 ko)
Employment, rehabilitation and vocational training
Blind and partially sighted Europeans are undoubtedly among the most vulnerable and least visible members of society. For the most part they are at the bottom end of the earnings league.
Poverty and social exclusion are inextricably linked and are caused by a complex combination of factors. Poor education and housing, unemployment and inadequate social protection, inaccessible information, transport and the built environment, negative attitudes and prejudices in society are all factors that lead to exclusion.
Rehabilitation and vocational training are closely related to employment and a decent income. All blind and partially sighted people should have access to these services and EBU advocates minimum quality standards. EBU is currently working on a study, 'The situation of blind and partially sighted people regarding employment in Europe after 10 years of the UN CRPD : Challenges and opportunities' led by our Spanish member, ONCE.
Outdoor mobility presents difficulties for blind and partially sighted people. The design of vehicles as well as infrastructure such as stations and stops, many of the standards for which are set at European level, affect how easy or not it is for blind and partially sighted women, men and children to travel. The growing number of electric vehicle (EV) and electric-hybrid vehicles (EHV) is a fundamental concern to blind and partially sighted people. Due to the strong intervention of the European Blind Union, the European Union and the UNECE (United Nations economic Commission for Europe) have addressed the necessity for additional artificial sound generation for electric and electric hybrid vehicles, more on this in our campaigns section.
Assistance dogs -Travelling in and out of Europe following Brexit (02/03/2021)
Following the UK’s exit from the EU at the end of 2020, the rules applying to travelling with a guide or assistance dog have changed. These are detailed in the links below, however, always check with your vet before you plan to travel. The new rules discriminate against persons with disabilities who wish to travel from the UK into Europe with their guide dog, as a new Animal Health Certificate (AHC) must be obtained for each and every trip out of the UK. For most people travelling with a dog is a choice; for a person with disabilities who relies on their guide dog, this is an essential. This means that short notice trips will be impossible to arrange, whether for business, pleasure or family matters. Each trip will incur a substantial additional cost, extra planning and time taken spent in the process involved obtaining the AHC. This is in addition to the current discrimination often experienced when travelling with a guide dog and highlights the inequalities suffered compared with other travellers. EGDF is engaging with MEP’s, the European Disability Forum, the European Blind Union and other Assistance Dog Organisations to campaign to create a level playing field.Travellers to Europe or Northern Ireland from the UK with their guide or assistance dog will no longer be able to use a UK issued EU Pet Passport.
In 2019, EBU invited its member organisations to submit examples of best practices on the accessibility of mobility for visually impaired persons. These were compiled into a brochure.
The brochure is available (pdf files) inEnglish, French, German, Italian, Polish, Portuguese, Russian, Serbian, Spanish and Turkish.
This present brochure documents best practices towards independent and safe mobility from across Europe. It is structured in three clusters, which reflect important and interlocking areas of accessible mobility: legislation and standards, built environment and infrastructure and lastly digital solutions. A short discussion section complements these chapters in order to contextualise some pertinent issues on the safety and independency of mobility for visually impaired persons.
The full document of the selected best practice, submitted by our Slovenian member, on Strategic Accessibility Planning, is available (pdf document).
The Roads That Lead To The Top: a video on blind and partially sighted women’s leadership, a short video portraying the stories of ten women who are blind or partially sighted and traces the paths they followed towards pursuing their dreams.
There is also a transcript of the video content, this is also available in French, German and Spanish (word files).
NEW! (02/2021) On the occasion of the 2021 International Women’s Day, EBU launched the 2021 – 2023 Gender Equality Committee Action Plan. EBU fosters equal opportunities for both genders to full participation and aims at increasing the representation of women in decision making positions. This means raising awareness on the added value of diversity and on the right to equal opportunities, and also the empowerment of women to take their rightful place in society.
Leadership training and women´s forums organised by EBU gave women the opportunity to learn skills and to strengthen their network.
On 13 June 2012 the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe adopted Recommendation CM/Rec (2012)6 on protecting and promoting the rights of women and girls with disabilities, which was prepared by CAHPAH-WGD working group of experts last year in Strasbourg. You can download the recommendations (word) in English and Français.
Now available to download, accessible pdf files of the Guide to Mainstreaming Gender in Public Disability Policies, in English and Spanish
The Covid 19 / Corona Virus crisis situation has had a worldwide impact. EBU is publishing here relevant information, good practices and advice which will be updated on a regular basis.(last update -20/01/2021)
In September 2020 EBU published a position paper as a result of its' work around the Covid19 crisis. In this document EBU attempts to draw some key lessons learned from the crisis. We do so in the hope that those lessons learned will greatly help societies at large to be more inclusive for visually impaired people moving forward; whether in a situation of a major crisis or at “normal” times.We build on ongoing feedback we gathered from our members across Europe throughout the lockdown phase, but also on a series of specific interviews we conducted after most countries started lifting those measures. This document is now also available in Montengrin.
On June 04 the European Commissioner for Jobs and Social Rights took written questions from the public in a chat on the topic: “A fair and sustainable recovery from the COVID-19 crisis”.
Via Twitter, EBU submitted the following question:
The Commission Work Programme for 2020, as adjusted due to the COVID-19 pandemic, still makes no mention of persons with disabilities. As always, persons with disabilities will largely fall out of the radar of victims of the resulting economic crisis, due to a persistent lack of reliable and useful statistics at EU level. Question: how concretely can the EU ensure that it delivers on its commitment and obligation to include disabled persons in the jobs market, if it lacks the necessary statistical tools, and what does the Commission plan to do about it? We received the following rather specific and instructive reply:
Thanks for your question European Blind Union.
The European Commission is well aware of the problem related to statistics. Until now only statistics on employment were available via EU-SILC. However, the Commission focused on this important topic as it is essential to have clear data.
That is why disability questions are soon to be included into the Labour Force Survey. On this issue, it is also important to stress that there is a real correlation between the data collected from SILC and the ones collected from the Labour Force Survey as demonstrated with the two Labour Force Survey ad hoc modules on employment of persons with disabilities. This way, it is possible for the Commission to address the situation of persons with disabilities in both the European Semester and the Joint Employment Report. Finally, some measures have been implemented in the European Disability Strategy 2010-2020, such as several studies, peer reviews, studies or collection of best practices in the Disability High Level Group reports etc.(end of reply)
For your full information, after having had to look into it Antoine Fobe can report that:
EU-SILC is the EU statistics on Income and Living Conditions, which aims to collect timely and comparable cross-sectional and longitudinal multidimensional microdata on income, poverty, social exclusion and living conditions. EU-SILC data also provide quantitative evidence for monitoring the implementation of the social protection and inclusion dimension of the European Pillar of Social Rights. All statistics under the Income and Living conditions (ILC) domain in the Eurostat dissemination database are EU-SILC data. The Labour Force Survey (LFS) is a large household sample survey providing quarterly results on labour participation of people aged 15 and over as well as on persons outside the labour force. LFS surveys are conducted by the national statistical institutes across Europe and are centrally processed by Eurostat.
In June 2020, as many countries were gradually easing lockdown measures, EBU's Focus newletter, in 7 languages, was entitled 'Learning from the Covid Crisis' and contains interviews with other international organisations and an MEP, on the management of the crisis and what can be taken forward from it.
EBU Executive Director Lars Bosselmann was interviewed on the BBC In Touch radio programme, along with other contributors, on the theme of social distancing and leaving lockdown. Lars arrived as EBU Director on the very day lockdown was introduced, and so has had to come to terms with a new job, flat and city, all within the context of lockdown. Other contributors include Kirsten Hearn, a blind listener, Peter Brass, a board member of the German Federation of the Blind and Partially Sighted, and Professor Robert Dingwall, a sociologist with a public health specialism based at Nottingham Trent University. The programme is presented by Peter White.
A Synthesis Report has been produced by the European Social Policy Network (ESPN) on “Social protection and inclusion policy responses to the COVID-19 crisis”. It examines the (sub)national social protection and inclusion policy measures that European countries put in place to help address the social and financial distress created by the pandemic and by lockdown policies. It covers the 27 EU Member States, the 7 candidate and potential candidate countries, and the UK. It is to be read with in mind the Porto Declaration of 8 May 2021, in which the EU Council recognises the challenges of the significant impact of COVID-19 on jobs and welfare systems across Europe, and underlines the EU commitment to continue deepening the implementation of the EPSR at EU and national levels, establishing among its key priorities, inter alia, addressing the risks of exclusion for particularly vulnerable social groups. A related document, on which the synthesis report is based, is: Social protection and inclusion policy responses to the COVID-19 crisis. An analysis of policies in 35 countries (2021)
International Disability Alliance (IDA) Survey on Experience of Persons with Disabilities Adapting to COVID-19 Global Pandemic. The IDA survey is now available in all languages planned including English, International Sign, French, Spanish, Arabic, Portuguese, Serbian and Creole. All links and more information about the survey.
The World Blind Union (WBU) have published 19 Actions for an inclusive Covid-19 response, also available in French and Spanish. They have also placed on line a recording of their facebook live seesion on “Orientation and mobility, personal safety in time of Covid-19", and another session on "Home schooling, how to help our children in time of Covid-19". On 27 August WBU published a report, 'COVID-19, AMPLIFYING VOICES: OUR LIVES, OUR SAY', after having conducted a study to examine the extent to which COVID-19 pandemic has exposed some deep structural inequalities in society. Data gathered from the study is evidencing that persons with disabilities, older persons, and persons from lower socioeconomic status backgrounds are among those hardest hit by the pandemic. While this report puts a spotlight on the voices of blind and partially sighted persons, many of the experiences shared strongly resonate with numerous other studies that are also highlighting how marginalised groups have been affected by this crisis. On the occasion of White Cane Day, 15 Oct. 2020, WBU issued a statement which EBU fully approuves and endorses, which includes the following call to law makers; "As the world grapples with the impact of COVID-19, we take this opportunity to remind law and policy makers and all stakeholders involved to ensure that designing or redesigning proper infrastructure adheres to COVID-19 protocols, that universal design is considered and everyone is sensitized. It is necessary for all of us to adjust to the "new normal" and in doing so, no one must be left behind.".
The World Bank's Disability Inclusive Development team, and more specifically the Inclusive Education Initiative's Disability-Inclusive Education Community of Practice, have developed a survey to understand if learners with disabilities and their families have access to the support they need to continue learning while schools are closed due to COVID-19. This survey is to be completed by parents of children with disabilities, teachers for children with disabilities, and persons with disabilities.
On Monday 27th April, the International Disability Alliance (IDA) and the International Disability and Development Consortium (IDDC) issued an open letter to the United Nations and the World Health Organisation calling for the UN and its agencies to make their daily briefings and any supporting documents on COVID-19 fully accessible to persons with disabilities.
Today (Tuesday 12th May), we received responses from the United Nations Secretary General: Read the response to IDA Read the response to IDDC
The main points of the letter are as follows:
- The United Nations COVID-19 Response and Recovery Multi-Partner Trust Fund has been established to directly support certain groups including persons with disabilities. It is envisaged that persons with disabilities will be systematically included through the various pillars of the Framework. Under-Secretary-General Menéndez and her team are coordinating with the Trust Fund to ensure that persons with disabilities are meaningfully addressed in the response, and to support greater collection of data disaggregated by disability on the socioeconomic impact of the pandemic.
- This month, UN entities will be reporting on their implementation of the United Nations Disability Inclusion Strategy, including on indicators regarding accessibility and communications. The Secretary-General has requested entities to provide information in their reports on disability-inclusive actions undertaken and planned related to the COVID-19 response and recovery
- The UN will produce in accessible e-Pub the eight COVID-19 policy briefs which the Secretary-General has launched
- The policy brief on COVID-19 and persons with disabilities is available in accessible ePub and easy-to-read formats, and a video of the Executive Summary has been produced in International Sign.
- WHO press briefings are now live captioned, and the transcripts are being produced in an accessible format as of 1 May.