Estimates by the World Health Organization (WHO) suggest that 15 % of the world’s population live with some form of disability. This makes people with disabilities the world’s largest minority. EU-wide, some 80 million EU citizens have a disability. Disability is complex and multi-dimensional: it denotes impairments, limitations on activity and restrictions on participation – a combination of medical and contextual factors. Some people are born with a disabling condition, others develop a disability through injury, chronic disease, or in older age. The EU’s disability policy strives for full inclusion of persons with disabilities in society, by respecting the key principles of non-discrimination, self-determination and unconditional equal treatment. The EU’s disability policy framework is set out in the European Disability Strategy, which serves to implement the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), to which the EU and its Member States are party.
The 751 Members of the European Parliament represent EU citizens’ interests on an extremely wide range of, often complex, policy issues. To help them in their work, the European Parliamentary Research Service (EPRS) provides independent, objective and authoritative analysis of and research on these issues. As Members’ time is very limited, and the amount of analysis available sometimes overwhelming, EPRS publishes short Topical Digests of published material whenever an issue arrives at the top of the policy agenda.
In 2017 this included providing digests to coincide with High-Level Conferences organised by Parliament’s President, Antonio Tajani (EPP, Italy), on topics such as EU relations with Africa, clean energy for Europe, and tourism. A digest of analytical material was also prepared for the European Week of Regions and Cities, as well as for the Social Summit in Gothenburg. Other major issues which warranted a digest of coverage during the year include developments in EU security and counter-terrorism policies and tax avoidance and tax evasion in the wake of the Paradise and Panama papers scandals. Digests were also prepared on EU development policy, and the EU’s relations with the Western Balkans. EU policy on sport, and the EU disability strategy complete this year’s collection of handy guides to EPRS publications – designed with Members of the European Parliament in mind, but available to everybody.
The European Disability Strategy 2010-2020
Briefing by Irmgard Anglmayer, July 2017
The European Disability Strategy 2010-2020 (EDS) constitutes a comprehensive multiannual framework for implementing the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) at EU level. The EDS and CRPD are thus closely intertwined. Given that the current strategy ends in 2020, preparatory work on the future disability framework has started. The European Parliament is providing input to it by means of an own-initiative report (‘Implementation of the European Disability Strategy’), which was voted in plenary on 30 November 2017.
EU implementation of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD)
In-depth analysis by Irmgard Anglmayer, February 2016
The CRPD is a legally binding instrument that aims to protect and promote the rights and dignity of persons with disabilities. The comprehensive catalogue of rights for people with disabilities, enshrined in the Convention, seeks to pull down the barriers disabled persons are facing in their daily lives – barriers that often prevent them from enjoying their fundamental rights on an equal basis with others. The EU ratified the CRPD in 2010 in its capacity as a regional integration organisation. It entered into force for the EU in January 2011. Since then, the Convention’s provisions have become an integral part of the EU’s legal order. Accordingly, all EU legislation, policies and programmes must comply with the CRPD’s established obligations. This in-depth analysis looks into the state of play of the EU’s implementation of the CRPD, after the first round of the review process.
Read this Topical digest on ‘EU policy for persons with disabilities‘ in PDF.
European Accessibility Act
‘EU Legislation in progress’ briefing by Marie Lecerf, November 2017
The European Commission has put forward a proposal for a European Accessibility Act. This proposed directive aims to ensure the full participation of people with disabilities in society and to reduce the fragmentation of legislation governing access to products and services. Many stakeholders welcome the European Union’s wish to honour its responsibilities under the CRPD, but they have been divided on the means to reach this objective. In the European Parliament, the Committee on the Internal Market and Consumer Protection (IMCO) adopted its report on 25 April 2017. The report was then discussed in plenary on 15 September. At the same time, Parliament gave a mandate to start negotiations with Council. Although the Council has published three progress reports, in June and December 2016 and in June 2017, it has yet to agree on its position on the proposal.
Assistive technologies to support people with disabilities
Briefing by Nicole Scholz, June 2015
The way disability is addressed has shifted from a purely medical approach to one that focuses on maximum functioning and well-being. Assistive technologies in support of people with disabilities have considerably evolved throughout the five broad categories of motor, vision, hearing, cognitive and communication disabilities. They now cover sophisticated ICT, software, cyber-physical and stem-cell applications. They include non-invasive and invasive brain-computer interfaces, wearable devices, stem-cell applications, neuroprosthetics, humanoid robots and applications (apps). The EU has funded several research projects on the development of assistive technologies under its research and innovation framework programmes.
What if technology helped society to become more inclusive?
At a glance by Philip Boucher, June 2016
There are already many assistive technologies available, which can help people with disabilities participate more fully in society. More advanced assistive technologies are under development, but is technology the key to a more inclusive society?
The obligations of the EU public administration under the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities
In-depth analysis by Irmgard Anglmayer, March 2016
European disability policy: From defining disability to adopting a strategy
In-depth analysis by Marie Lecerf, June 2017
The employment equality directive
Study by Jan Tymowski, February 2016