700 disability advocates meet in the European Parliament to ask for an “inclusive future in the EU”

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On 23 May, the hemicycle of the European Parliament in Brussels will host the “5th European Parliament of Persons with Disabilities”, with the participation of over 700 disability advocates from all EU countries.

The delegates represent the full diversity of persons with disabilities in Europe. During the day, delegates, European policymakers, national ministers and international organisations will come together to discuss the European Union’s role in advancing Disability Rights.

The event – organised by the European Disability Forum and the European Parliament – will serve as a direct channel between national advocates and European policymakers at the highest level.

Speakers will include European Parliament President Roberta Metsola, European Commission’s Vice-President Vera Jourová, European Commissioner for Equality Helena Dalli and Commissioner for Crisis Management Janez Lenarčič. Ministers from Malta and Belgium will deliver remarks, as well as the Head of the National Assembly of Persons with Disabilities in Ukraine.

Disability advocates will also adopt the European Disability Forum’s manifesto on the European Elections with a wide range of political proposals to achieve an inclusive EU.

The participants will discuss issues through 3 different panels. Topics include free movement and participation; inequality and social exclusion; disability-inclusive response.

Watch the livestream on 23 May

The European Disability Forum and the European Parliament renew their longstanding partnership that allows disability advocates – often excluded from the political process due to discriminatory laws or inaccessible processes – to directly share their concerns with European Union representatives.

This edition, under organised under the leadership of the European Parliament’s President Roberta Metsola, cements the European Parliament’s commitment to realising the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and its role in guaranteeing that Article 10 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union is upheld: “In defining and implementing its policies and activities, the Union shall aim to combat discrimination based on sex, racial or ethnic origin, religion or belief, disability, age or sexual orientation.”

Yannis Vardakastanis, President of the European Disability Forum, commented:

“Persons with disabilities are often excluded from the political process – from voting, standing as a candidate and, often, even getting their problems and concerns to policymakers. We thank the European Parliament for giving us a platform to share our priorities and proposals – both with EU policymakers and national governments.”

The European Elections Manifesto During the event, advocates will approve the European Disability Forum’s Manifesto for the European Elections.
The manifesto defines actions in 5 main areas:

  1. Guarantee the participation of persons with disabilities in the political and public life of the EU.
  2. Realise a Union of Equality for persons with disabilities with the CRPD as its compass.
  3. Become a more social Europe.
  4. Embrace accessibility – allowing free movement in Europe.
  5. Protect persons with disabilities in Europe and beyond;

Notable demands include:

  1. Ensure that all persons with disabilities have the right to vote and the right to stand as candidates in European elections.
  2. Ensure strong services focusing on disability rights in EU Institutions: a new Directorate-General for Equality and Inclusion in the European Commission under the leadership of the Commissioner for Equality; a Disability Committee in the European Parliament; an Equality Configuration in the Council.
  3. Create a new European agency for accessibility.
  4. Adopt an EU-wide Disability Card, which ensures the mutual recognition of disability status across Member States.
  5. Introduce stronger legislation to protect the rights of persons with disabilities as passengers, notably the prohibition of denied boarding to flights and fair compensation when mobility equipment is lost or damaged during travel.
  6. Establish a Disability Employment and Skills Guarantee to boost the participation of persons with disabilities in the open labour market.
  7. Further protection for women and girls with disabilities, including the prohibition of forced sterilisation.
  8. Support Ukrainians with disabilities inside and outside Ukraine, and make sure the EU’s contribution to the reconstruction of Ukraine builds a more inclusive country for persons with disabilities.
  9. Introduce legislation to guarantee the availability and affordability of assistive technologies for persons with disabilities.
  10. Ensure the next EU Budget fully supports independent living for persons with disabilities and ensures disability inclusion in the Green and Digital transition.

Emerging challenges

The three panels will discuss our demands and further explain pressing issues for persons with disabilities:

  • The first panel will focus on issues including the right to vote, accessibility of transport and the built environment and the upcoming EU Disability Card. Speakers will include EC Vice-President for Values and Transparency Věra Jourová, EU Ombudsman Emily O’Reilly, the Belgian Minister of Pensions and Social Integration Karine Lalieux, Maltese Minister for Inclusion Julia Farrugia Portelli and Martin Conway, member of the Irish Senate.
  • The second panel will look at inclusion in education and employment, measures to tackle the increasing cost of living and how to ensure all persons with disabilities can live independently. Chaired by EP Vice-President Marc Angel, speakers will include Commissioner for Equality Helena Dalli, EDF Youth Committee’s representative Tamara Byrne, UN disability expert Markus Schefer and representatives of the European Anti-Poverty Network and Equinet.
  • Finally, participants will discuss the EU’s response to ongoing challenges such as climate disasters, Russian aggression against Ukraine and COVID-19 with speakers such as Commissioner for Crisis Management Janez Lenarčič; Idriss Maïga Alzouma, Chairperson of the African Disability Forum, Valerii Sushkevych, Head of the Ukrainian National Assembly of Persons with Disabilities; and Paola Albrito, Director of the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction.

Support to the event

The European Disability Forum would like to thank the financial and logistical support of organisations that made this event possible:

  • The European Parliament
  • European Commission (through an operating grant)
  • MEPs bring the citizens closer to the EU