Despite of all our common agreed values and treaties, and the fact the EU and its Member States have signed and ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, persons with disabilities continue to face multiple obstacles and discrimination in everyday life, preventing them from enjoying the fundamental freedoms and rights.
During the past year I worked as the rapporteur on the report on the protection of persons with disabilities, calling on the European Commission and Member States to implement a number of initiatives aimed at ensuring that the Member States are in line with the United Nations Convention on the Rights for Persons with Disabilities and the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights. Currently, I am working on the file “Towards equal rights for people with disabilities”.
Both files are very timely, considering the last year’s launch of the new disability strategy 2021 - 2030 by the European Commission that aims to improve the lives of persons with disabilities in a barrier-free Europe and to promote social and economic inclusion and participation of persons with disabilities in society, free from discrimination and in full respect of their rights on equal basis with others.
Currently, European citizens face numerous barriers, which create obstacles for persons with disabilities when moving to another Member State for work, study or any another reason. At the core of this issue is the fact that currently, there is no mutual recognition of the disability status between EU Member States. In my report, I stressed that the European Disability Card will be a very important instrument to help persons with disabilities to exercise their right to free movement in a barrier-free Europe.
The Committee on Petitions plays a crucial role as a bridge between EU citizens, Parliament and other EU Institutions and an important instrument for getting our citizens involved in participatory democracy. The right to petition is one of the fundamental rights of every EU citizen. However, persons with disabilities face enormous obstacles in exercising their right to petition. That is why it is important for the European Parliament to ensure that its website is accessible for persons with disabilities, in line with the ‘leading by example’ policy. Moreover, it should allow tabling petitions in international and national sign languages used in the EU and thus make the fundamental right to petition more accessible for sign language users.
Work and employment are crucial elements for independent living and elementary factors in ensuring full and effective participation and inclusion of persons with disabilities in our society.
One of the greatest challenges faced by persons with disabilities, particularly those who try to make ends meet when in employment and earning a wage, is the issue of living cost.
In my latest work, on the opinion “Towards equal rights for people with disabilities”, I am stressing the urgent need to conduct a study on scaling up the promotion of equal opportunities for persons with disabilities through enhanced data collection, which aims to further analyse the issue of living costs for persons with disabilities. For example, it is important with this data to understand why it is that persons with disabilities are so disproportionately affected by poverty, and why the issue of losing one’s disability allowance when a person starts earning a wage can be so problematic and dangerous. The loss of disability allowance following the take-up of paid work is one of the principle reasons that persons with disabilities cannot easily transfer to the labour market, and that puts them at the greatest risk of in-work poverty.
In June, as representative of the EU monitoring UNCRPD Framework, I will be joining the Mission to the UN Headquarters. to discuss with different NGOs, UN entities, National Human Rights Institutions and United Nations system entities the building disability-inclusive and participatory societies in the COVID context and beyond. This is fundamental for us to achieve social and economic inclusion and participation of persons with disabilities in society, free from discrimination and in full respect of their rights on an equal basis with others.
Vice-President of the S&D Group,
Vice-Chair Of the Committee on Petitions
Rapporteur on the report on “The protection of persons with disabilities through petitions: lessons learnt”
Shadow Rapporteur on the opinion “Towards equal rights for people with disabilities”