Monthly Archives: December 2011

European Commission Seeks Public Input on Measures to Remove Barriers Faced by Persons with Disabilities

Last week the European Commission launched a public consultation on its future plans for breaking down barriers to Europeans with disabilities.  See the European Commission press release here.  The consultation seeks to assist the European Commission to prepare its proposals for a European Accessibility Act, planned for autumn 2012.  The Act aims to ensure that persons with disabilities have access, on an equal basis with others, to the physical environment, to transport and to information and communication services.  Better access to the built environment not only benefits persons with disability but everyone.   The European Union Justice Commissioner Viviane Reding stated that:
“Making goods and services more accessible is also about creating market opportunities and can be a stimulus for innovation and growth.  That is why we are consulting business as well as people with disabilities, older people and the public at large.”  See here.

The Commission adopted a comprehensive European Disability Strategy in 2010 aimed at the creation of a barrier-free Europe for persons with disabilities by 2020.  See here.  The European Commissions’ European Disability Strategy 2010-2020 proposed to use legislative and other instruments, such as standardisation (including developing specific standards for particular sectors), to augment accessibility for persons with disabilities and the elderly.  The Strategy committed to explore the advantages of adopting regulatory measures to ensure accessibility of goods and services, including measures to step up the use of public procurement, through a ‘European Accessibility Act’.  There is a perception that progress in extending EU anti-discrimination beyond employment into the provision of good and services would have a negative impact on European business as there would be cost implications for reasonably accommodating persons with disabilities.  Thus the proposed European accessibility legislation is being hailed as a “business-friendly proposal that will substantially improve the proper functioning of the internal market for accessible goods and services” with a view to quell opposition from the European business lobby.  See here.
One of the key actions included was an accessibility initiative. The aim is to use standardisation or public procurement rules to make all goods and services accessible to people with disabilities while fostering a EU market for assistive devices.  According to the European Commission the market is expected to grow significantly in the coming years.  In its press release on the public consultation the European Commission cited a study by the UK’s Royal National Institute of the Blind that found that a £35 000 investment by a supermarket chain in making its website accessible resulted in additional revenue of over £13 million a year.  The press release also cited a German study that suggested that more accessible facilities would increase travel by persons with disabilities to the tune of between €620 million and €1.9 billion in additional turnover for the German tourism industry.

Leave a comment

Filed under European Commission; Accessibility Act; Directive; disability; European Disability Strategy; 2010-2020; reasonable accommodation; business; European Union

Conference: Implementing the Rights of Persons with Disabilities

The Essl Foundation, the World Future Council and Bank Austria are working together to organize an International Conference on January 22-23, 2012, Vienna, Austria on future policies which successfully implement the rights of people with disabilities.   Supported by the EFC European Consortium of Foundations on Human Rights and Disabilities, the event will gather policy makers, academic institutions, practitioners, public servant, disability rights activists, NGOs, media, enterprises and foundations.  Most of Consortium members will participate playing an active role.  During the conference, the six most encouraging examples of political responsibility will be presented and discussed.  These policies will focus on topics such as education, personal assistance, employment, voting rights, antidiscrimination, accessibility and independent living.  The conference programme can be downloaded here.

Leave a comment

Filed under Essl Foundation; Conference; Disability; human rights

Disability Studies Association of Ireland Proposed

The NUI Galway Centre for Disability Law at Policy together with University College Dublin Centre for Disability Studies, Trinity College Dublin National Institute for Intellectual Disability and University of Ulster held an event celebrating the International Day of Persons with Disabilities on the 2nd of December 2011 in TCD.  Prestigious speakers such as Anna Lawson, Professor Patricia Noonan Walsh, Professor Gerard Quinn and Eithne Fitzgerald spoke at the event that was chaired by Martin Naughton.

From left to right: Patricia Bray, Dr Suzanne Guerin, Anna Lawson, Associate Prof Christine Linehan, Eithne Fitzgerald, Martin Naughton, Prof Patricia Noonan Walsh, Prof Gerard Quinn
Professor Quinn discussed the proposal of an inclusive and inter-disciplinary Disability Studies of Ireland and presented a memo that explores options for the establishment of this Disability Studies Association in Ireland or a similar body (North and South). The memo can be found here.

The founding partners (TCD NIID, UCD Centre for Disability Studies, the University of Ulster and NUI Galway Centre for Disability Law & Policy) will host a follow-through meeting of all institutions and individuals interested to be held in UCD on 12 March next. For further information contact or any of the four founding centres.

Leave a comment

Filed under Disability Studies Association of Ireland; NUI Galway; CDLP; TCD; NIID; University College Dublin; University of Ulster

Europe’s Way Out of the Crisis: A Gloomy Celebration of the European Day of People with Disabilities

3 December is the International Day of People with Disabilities. The annual conference organized by the European Commission in cooperation with the European Disability Forum (EDF) is a platform for mutual learning and networking among key actors in the disability policy field. This year’s conference was held 1 and 2 December and was focusing on the effects the crisis is having on the lives of people with disabilities bringing together relevant stakeholders, European policy-and decision-makers and some of the major organizations representing people with disabilities.
The crisis hit the 80 million persons with disabilities across the EU the worst with unprecedented austerity measures. According to the European Disability Forum Observatory report people with disabilities are affected, by the austerities in a variety of ways, including significant cuts of allowances, reduction in services and rise of unemployment rates. Yannis Vardakastanis, President of EDF stated in his keynote speech “a clear, strong, and loud message to all governments, to all institutions, to all those who take decisions, that the EU determined to protect the most vulnerable, disabled people from the repercussions of the crisis”. The disability movement made a clear statement saying the economic crisis must not have a devastating impact and threaten the lives of people with disabilities by pulling back the overarching results of the last 30 years. John Evans, Board Member of both the European Network on Independent Living and the European Disability Forum said that the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities seemed to be a legal instrument to protect and promote Disability Rights. The fact that the European Union has also become State Party of the CRPD showed its commitment to recognize those rights, therefore in these insecure times, there is a need for a strong legal framework in the EU to ensure the social inclusion of people with disabilities.
A parallel session focused on the new regulations of the European Structural Fund. Representative of DG REGIO held a presentation on how the European Commission intends to cover disability under anti-discrimination in the new proposal. Javier Güemes, acting director of EDF expressed his concerns about the new regulations and pointed out the necessary elements to avoid misusage of the EU money by maintaining institutionalized care. He suggested that the only way forward was to improve inclusion in the community life and progress the deinstitutionalization movement.
The second Access City Award ceremony also took place during the conference. The prize was awarded to a city with 50,000 inhabitants or more, which has demonstrably improved accessibility in fundamental aspects of city living. This involves four main areas: built environment and public spaces; information and communication; transport and related infrastructure; and last but not least public facilities and services. Access City is part of the Commission’s European Disability Strategy 2010-2020 action to create a barrier-free Europe and provide better access for people with disabilities.
European Commission Vice-President Viviane Reding presents the winner of the Access City Award at the European Day of Persons with Disabilities conference in Brussels, 1-2 December 2011
The jury selected Salzburg (Austria) as the most accessible city in Europe. There were three other European cities in the final: Krakow (Poland), Marburg (Germany) and Santander (Spain). European Commission Vice-President, Commissioner for Justice, Fundamental Rights, and Citizenship Viviane Reding made a political commitment in her speech that the European Accessibility Act will be presented by the European Commission in 2012. Adam Kosa, MEP and Chair of the European Parliament Disability Intergroup urged the Commission in his plenary speech to submit the proposal of the Accessibility Act next year, so the European Parliament can take significant steps to sustain employment rate and social inclusion of ageing population in Europe.

Leave a comment

Filed under International Day of People with Disabilities; Yannis Vardakastanis; John Evans; European Network on Independent Living; European Disability Forum

Potential Genetic Discrimination in the English Premier League

Leave a comment

Filed under genetic discrimination; soccer; profiling; disability; exclusion; premiership football; testing; genetics

Austerity cuts must not destabilise progress made on Disability Rights

Leave a comment

Filed under CRPD: Austerity; United Nations